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As COVID-19 Resurges, Greek Schools Prepare Reopening Anyway

ATHENS – Despite Greek teachers fearing it's not safe, schools will reopen Sept. 7 even as cases of COVID-19 are rising and the New Democracy government, scrambling to contain it, keeps issuing tighter restrictions not fully working.

A  committee of scientific experts advising the government is preparing guidelines for students, teachers and other staff in the schools, with the use of face masks mandatory although it hasn't been set what age is the minimum.

Also unsettled is what would happen during breaks in the corridors and outside at recesses and how safe social distances of 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) could be kept, especially around canteens where students get food.

Speaking to Open TV,  Dr. Nikos Sypsas, a Professor of Medicine at the University of Athens who sits on the specialist committee, said that, in case of an infection, authorities will close “specific sections” of the school and not the entire building.

There will also be a general disinfection and contact tracing to avoid a further spread, the regulations will require.

Earlier in August, the Health Ministry sent health instructions to try to maintain some sense of hygiene in schools, including keeping a distance, how to handle school equipment, keeping desks and chairs apart and directing traffic to avoid congregating, said Kathimerini.

Students will be instructed not to exchange stationary or pass notes to each other and will have to use keyboard covers on computers and seats will be disinfected after each use, every time it’s going to be used by another pupil.

There will also be psychological help available for those who find it difficult to cope with the stress and fear even as the virus is winding down in the country after an early lockdown held down the number of cases and fatalities.

High schools opened May 6 for teachers to begin preparations for the return of students, with seniors trying to get ready for university entrance exams.

The openings are drawing some criticism, including from teachers, and with mayors on some islands fearful it could spread the virus again. The secondary school teachers’ union (OLME) stopped work for three hours on May 6 in protest, but to no avail.

In comments to SKAI TV then, OLME President Theodoros Tsouchlos said it wasn’t safe for students and teachers in groups of up to 40 in the same room to be there and said teachers weren’t given adequate safety instructions.

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