The re-opening of schools during a major surge of the Omicron variant has stirred a feverish debate between political parties and heightened concerns among teachers and parents regarding how schools should operate.

Microbiology Professor Alkiviadis Vatopoulos, a member of the National Committee on COVID-19, has denied the government’s contention that the decision to shut down school classes only if 50 percent of the students plus one test positive for COVID-19 was taken by the Committee.

The re-opening of schools during a major surge of the Omicron variant has stirred a feverish debate between political parties and heightened concerns among teachers and parents regarding how schools should operate, lowering the number of infections required to shut down a class, and delaying the re-opening of schools by one week.

Vatopoulos said it was the health ministry that decided that classes will close only if 50 percent plus one student in a class test positive for COVID, and not the National Committee on COVID-19. He said he believes the rationale was to set a maximum percentage, beyond which – for educational reasons – a class cannot be held.

“We [the Committee] cannot set an across-the-board limit right now,” he said.

In an interview with Alpha radio, Vatopoulos said that the Committee on a daily basis reviews epidemiological data from schools and when a class should shut depends on clustering of infections.

“If suddenly we see a large cluster at a school, and five students have fallen ill, the school will have to close either way,” he said. “You may have 20 cases that are not connected between them without having to shut down. It is not easy to set a limit.”

The Omicron variant is not a simple flu

Regarding the Omicron variant, Vatopoulos said that, “It appears to be less transmissible and to cause less illness, but that in no way implies that it is a simple flu. We do not yet have many patients who have the Omicron variant hospitalised as this is the early stage of spread and concerns mainly younger people.”

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