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Politics

Returning Greek Students Will Be Offered Free COVID-19 Masks

ATHENS – While saying it's safe to reopen schools during a rising COVID-19 pandemic, Greece's New Democracy government said it will give out free face masks to all students before classes resume Interior Minister Takis Theodorikakos said

The masks will be distributed by local governments and “for as long as needed,” he told SKAI TV although teachers said they are fearful of returning and dubious of health measures being put in place.

Education Minister Niki Kerameus said she had adopted a proposal by the expert committee advising the government on coronavirus to make face coverings mandatory for all students, including those in kindergarten.

It wasn't explained how requiring 5 or 6-year-old children to wear masks in class would be enforced of what would happen if any refused, or if infections were discovered.

Theodorikakos said the ministry is waiting for the committee to issue directions regarding the face masks’ technical specifications before proceeding with the plan and what kind of masks the students would be getting and their quality.

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 pupils 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.

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