Back to school: Masks still mandatory, tests not necessary but recommended

Education minister pointed out districts where classrooms are likely to deal with infected children soon.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: TASR)

Schools in Slovakia will open on the second day of September with the outlook that they will not be forced to close and go online as a nationwide measure at any point during the 2021/2022 school year. By the time all schoolkids are immunised, either through vaccination or through infection, classrooms are likely to be quarantined, perhaps even repeatedly, at the local levels.

Slovakia's Covid automat warning system, which the government approved on August 10, is counting on schools to operate even in the worst epidemic situation, marked as black tier in the system, while individual classrooms instead of entire schools will be closing when infection is detected.

A low vaccination rate in a district increases the probability that classrooms will close very soon after the school year starts in that area. Education Minister Branislav Gröhling mostly named eastern-Slovak towns as examples of such districts, including Gelnica, Košice, Stará Ľubovňa, Spišská Nová Ves, Poprad, Svidník, Kysucké Nové Mesto, Poltár, Vranov nad Topľou, and Humenné.

The vaccination rate among teachers is 66 percent, higher than the vaccination rate of the whole population (currently just over 42 percent overall, or some 50 percent of the adult population), but still insufficient to prevent the more infectious Delta variant from spreading in schools.

As for pupils, the latest data shows that 20 percent of people aged 12-17 have been vaccinated so far. There is no vaccine for children younger than 12. Elena Prokopová, chief expert of the Health Ministry for general care for children and adolescents, believes that as the school year progresses, most kids will have gained antibodies either by vaccination or recovery from Covid.

Will school open in September?

Yes, schools will welcome all pupils and students back on September 2. (September 1 is a national holiday in Slovakia).

Based on the Covid automat, schools should remain open in all tiers of the warning system, including the black tier, being the worst epidemic situation.

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