Argentine capital tests teachers for Covid-19 ahead of reopening schools

Buenos Aires, Feb 8 (efe-epa).- Officials in the Argentine capital launched Monday an operation to test school staff for Covid-19 before the scheduled return of children to classrooms on Feb. 17.

Tests are being administered at three sites in the city.

The Buenos Aires municipal health department said it has the capacity to test the teachers and other employees at all of the city’s schools, both public and private, and to inform individuals of their results within 14 hours.

Under the plan, school staff will be able to get tested every two weeks and they can book appointments on the education department’s website.

“We have the conditions and the necessity, above all for the kids, to return and recover all that has been lost during the last year,” municipal education secretary Soledad Acuña told TN television. “There are no reasons to justify not reopening the schools.”

Yet the initiative to bring children back to classrooms has been controversial amid differences between the conservative city administration and teachers unions concerned about the health of their members.

Argentina has lost more than 49,000 lives to pandemic, while the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is approaching 2 million.

Acuña said that through “strong dialogue with everyone,” her department has reached agreement with the unions “on many points.”

“There is some union that demonstrates against it, but it’s a minority,” she said. “The great majority have been accompanying the process, but it is the responsibility of the executive to make the decision to have these protocols that are already functioning in the schools.”

Coronavirus vaccination got under way in Argentina on Dec. 29, beginning with front-line medical workers.

Most of the existing and prospective Covid-19 vaccines need to be administered in two doses to achieve maximum effectiveness and the Health Ministry estimates that Argentina will need 54.4 million doses.

The country is home to around 44 million people, but the vaccine is not recommended for certain segments of the population such as children under 16.

The government has commitments for 51 million doses, including 20 million of Russia’s Sputnik V drug, 22.4 million doses of the vaccine developed by UK-based AstraZeneca with Oxford University and 9 million doses to be made available through the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative. EFE jacb/dr

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