Madrid Desk, Jan 10 (EFE).- Students in Spain, Italy and Greece returned to school on Monday despite the Omicron variant sweeping across Europe, where it continues to drive infection rates to record levels.
Despite an all-time high of coronavirus infections driven by the contagious Omicron variant in Spain, schools reopened as normal on Monday with 100% face-to-face classes.
Face masks will be mandatory both in classrooms and outdoors while quarantine rules have been eased for students who come into contact with positive cases.
The ministry of health has recommended an entire classroom must go into quarantine for seven days only when at least five cases, or 20% of the classroom, test positive for Covid-19.
The new rule reflects the current situation of the pandemic in the country, according to the health ministry, with high vaccination rates among younger age groups.
Over 86% of the population from the 12-19 age group has received the full course of the Covid-19 vaccine while over 32% of children ages 5-11 have had at least one jab.
Around 1.6 million students and teachers returned to classrooms in Greece, where the Omicron variant constitutes around 90% of known Covid infections.
The education ministry warned of a possible surge in cases following the return to classrooms after 15,000 infections were picked up by home tests on Sunday.
According to local media, some 150,000 schoolchildren and teachers were not able to take a rapid test over the weekend because they sold out in pharmacies, meaning they would have to take a test at their school on Monday morning.
Teachers who are cleared to work may take on extra hours to cover colleagues absent with Covid-19.
Vaccinated teachers and students will be able to do home tests paid for by the state, while non-vaccinated teachers will have to pay for them.
In Italy, schools reopened across the country with the exception of the Campania and Sicily region, where face to face teaching has been delayed amid soaring Covid-19 cases..
Education minister Patrizio Bianchi defended the government’s policy of face-to-face classes where possible by stating that online education “causes problems in the life of the community.”
School principals warned that up to 100,000 staff members could be absent due to Covid-19 in the coming days.
In addition to this, an estimated 40,000 education workers who have refused to take the vaccine will theoretically be banned from returning to work, according to the government’s new regulations. EFE