ATHENS - When Greek students return to schools beginning May 11 as a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus will be lifted in stages, they will have to stay at least two meters (6.56 feet) apart but it wasn’t said how that can be enforced.
Social distancing guidelines have been in place since the lockdown was imposed on march 23 and will be maintained even as stories, businesses and other services, including hotels, reopen in stages into early June.
Details were set to be announced for the schools at 6 p.m. in Athens by Education Minister Kerameus in a joint press conference with Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias and Health Ministry spokesperson Sotiris Tsiodras.
Among them is that students must wear face masks although it also wasn’t said if there were enough or if they were protective enough after shortages during the early days of the lockdown emptied store shelves and pharmacies, people turning to online supply chains.
There will also be antiseptic provisions at the schools, such as sanitizers, and Kathimerini said there will be empty desks between students without any government explanation of how that would work since classrooms are generally full, although afternoon sessions had been ruled out.
Details will be provided regarding the procedures for the reopening of schools – students per class, entry and exit ways and instructions to school principals, students and teachers in what are confined spaces.
There were no details on what would happen if elementary schools reopen, with a report it could be as late as June 1, two weeks before they would otherwise close and how to keep children from not playing with each other at recess or being in contact otherwise.
Major opposition Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, whose party was ousted by few Democracy in July 7, 2019 snap elections, criticized the school reopening plans before they were announced, saying classes should be held only for senior high students to prepare for their final exams and university entrance tests.
Tsipras said "schools should not be confused with the gradual opening of economic activity," especially since most European countries have not proceeded to reopen them after earlier saying reopening schools was “an unnecessary risk.”
"The decision to stop the operation of schools was undoubtedly necessary, and contributed decisively to the successful health management of the pandemic in Greece to date," SYRIZA said, referring to the global outbreak of Covid-19. "But now we are at a different crossroads," it added.
"Everyone agrees to hold entrance examinations for universities the latest by mid-July, which means that students in the last year of high school should return to classrooms. The same holds true for final-year examinations at universities," it noted.
"However, there are serious objections by doctors, teachers and parents as to the reopening of other classrooms and grades," it said, adding that "the reopening of schools for less than a month before summer holidays is an unnecessary risk that must not be assumed."