Greece pins hopes on mandatory home testing, opens schools

ATHENS, GREECE (AP) — High schools re-opened in Greece to students in the final three grades with the mandatory use of test kits for COVID-19 being rolled out across the country to help with mass screening for infections, with an eye to further re-opening the economy and tourism.

Students from grades 10 to 12 were allowed to return to class yesterday – most for the first time in five months – if they provided a negative test result using the kits being distributed at pharmacies. Some teachers chose to hold classes outdoors.

Students in other grades continued online classes.

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.”

Greece’s centre-right government is keen to start re-opening the economy and its crucial tourism industry after lockdown measures were imposed in early November. But the rate of infections and death has remained high since early February, with mortality currently above the European Union (EU) average.

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

The government plans to officially launch the tourism season in mid-May. With less than seven per cent of the population fully vaccinated, the government has promised to ramp up its campaign through the rest of April.

High school students, holding proof of negative COVID-19 self-test, enter a school at Glyfada suburb, west of Athens. PHOTO: AP