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Cyprus: School Reopenings Won’t Be Allowed to Risk Health

NICOSIA — Cyprus' president attempted on Friday to quell concerns over a government decision to reopen all public schools on May 21, insisting that children will only be allowed back into classrooms if the COVID-19 infection rate remains at the current low level. 

President Nicos Anastasiades said that just as in the decision to start gradually lifting a strict, two-month stay-at-home order, reopening schools depends on how well the country manages to keep the coronavirus at bay on the advice of a team of medical experts.

He said reactions, although understandable, are unwarranted because the government will never be "complicit in regressive" actions that would enable the virus to flourish and endanger public health.

Some Cypriots questioned why the government would opt to reopen schools for five weeks and risk a flare-up of infections. Others attributed the move to pressure from the business community to free parents from taking care of children at home and allowing them to get back to work.

But the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry issued a statement dismissing "unsubstantiated claims" that it "imposed" the reopening of schools, saying that it has never expressed an opinion on the matter because it's not in its remit. 

Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said in a news conference the decision to re-open schools was made "clearly on educational grounds," but acknowledged that it would also help "tens of thousands" of parents go back to work to recoup part of their lost earnings.

Prodromou said there will be 12 children per classroom in line with social distancing rules, with half the student body going to school every other day. Teachers will be provided with gloves and masks, while students and teaching staff will undergo testing for the virus.

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