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Greece Cautiously Edges Toward April 12 Schools Reopening

Αssociated Press

FILE- Pupils wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus, go to their classroom at a primary school in Athens, Monday, Jan.11, 2021. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS - After backing off from reopening schools amid fears that could spread a surging COVID-19 pandemic, Greece’s New Democracy government is tentatively planning to let them operate again April 12.

Minister of State Giorgos Geraptritis said that would happen if deemed safe by an advisory panel of doctors and scientists, and that students and staff would be required to take self-tests to show they aren’t infected.

“ The self-diagnosis tests have already reached the country and we estimate that all pharmacies in major cities will be supplied by tomorrow and all pharmacies across the country by the end of the week,” he told SKAI TV.

“I think that we will be able to open schools ... as they have been closed for a long time and this has a serious impact not just on the pupils’ mental health, but also on learning matters,” he added.

The government, to the criticism of rival parties, has gone back and forth between tough and lenient terms of a five-month lockdown, including for schools, teachers conducting lessons online instead.

He said the aim now is to open high schools and middle schools first because elementary schools had been open longer this academic year, with the Holy Week and Easter period approaching and then exams.

He said there’s a chance that nationwide travel now banned could begin again by Easter on May 2, but only if it’s safe, although there’s likely to be extreme pressure from the Church and people wanting to go to their villages

“If all goes well and we do not have a major epidemiological setback, it is reasonable to assume that we’ll have interregional travel over Easter, though not among regions that have been hard hit,” Gerapetritis said.

In addition, the supply of pharmacies with self tests has begun and by the end of the week the 11,000 pharmacies of Greece will have enough to initially distribute them to upper highschool (lyceum) pupils aged 16-18 and their teachers.

The kit for children must be collected by their parents or guardians, using their AMKA social security number. The Panhellenic Pharmacies Association clarified that all other AMKA numbers will be 'locked', meaning that the tests cannot be given to citizens that are not in the above groups.