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Society

Lockdown Eased, Greece’s COVID-19 Battle Using Self-Test Kits

ATHENS – Greece will expand use of self-test kits to track asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 with people who test positive required to report it, the scheme a key part of the  battle to slow the pandemic now more than a year long.

The initial plan was to distribute them through pharmacies with residents allowed one each weekly but pharmacists, citing fears of queues and being exposed, refused to give them on-site.

That means people will have to administer the tests themselves, even those who might find it difficult, the aim being to identify as many cases as possible, which could become mandatory for public workers.

It started with high school students, staff and teachers when they returned to school on April 12 and the government said self-testing could allow travel between regions for Easter as it plans to open to tourists on May 14.

Students from grades 10 to 12 were allowed to return for the first time in five months during a lockdown that alternated between being tough and lenient and saw them taking classes online.

Those who tested negative were allowed to go back to class although some wary teachers nevertheless held classes outdoors with scenes showing students sitting side-by-side in classrooms.

The kits “are a valuable screening tool,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. “Some 613 students and teachers were found to be positive, most of them showing no symptoms, and are staying at home and not exposing their classmates and colleagues to danger,” he added, The Associated Press reported.

Furthermore, all members of the educational community (pupils, teachers, staff) that are attending school in person this week must pick up their second free self test for Covid-19 from pharmacies, use it and post the results on the self-testing.gov.gr platform before attending school on Thursday, the education ministry announced.

If any individual lacks or has difficulties using their AMKA social security number to obtain and upload the test results, the platform provides a list of facilities where they can do the test, the announcement said.

Self-test kits are being made available on a weekly basis at no charge to all residents registered with the public health service, with the use to be made mandatory for workers in various sectors including food delivery and retail.

With less than 7 percent of the population fully vaccinated, the government has promised to ramp up its campaign through the rest of April.

Education Minister Niki Kerameus, in statements to the public broadcaster ERT on Wednesday, said that no proposal has been put to the health ministry's pandemic experts' committee for the in-person attendance of primary schools and the lower grades of secondary schools, noting that "this discussion has been pushed back until after Easter".

Priority will be given to other activities, which will open next week, she added.

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