Stricter measures planned as Covid spreads, school closures advised for worst districts

The government has options to hinder the spread of the virus before it starts considering limits to in-person education, expert says.

(Source: TASR)

The Health Ministry has said it has no plans to change the system governing when schools can remain open if pupils test positive for Covid-19, despite rising infection numbers and warnings of the risks of children spreading the disease.

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Regional public health authorities have the power to close individual schools or all the schools within their district, if they decide the epidemic situation requires it.

Pupils and students returned to schools after the short autumn holidays earlier this week as the latest wave of the Covid-19 pandemic intensified.

Infection numbers and hospitalisations have risen sharply in recent days and most regions in Slovakia are currently in the strictest two tiers of the country’s ‘Covid-automat’ system which ties the degree of pandemic restrictions that must be put in place in any area to infection rates.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Vladimír Lengvarský has said there may be a rethink of current pandemic measures if the situation worsens further.

This has led to questions about whether schools may have to close. In fact, the consilium of experts advising the government on mitigating the pandemic suggested on November 5 that in the worst-off districts, in the dark red and black tiers, in-person education should be interrupted if possible. The competency to make the decision to close schools should still rest with the regional public health authorities.

Open schools as long as possible

Schools were closed for much of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021 during the first and second waves of the pandemic. Only schools in Colombia and Costa Rica among OECD countries were shut for longer.

To avoid a repeat of this, the Covid automat system which came into force in late August was designed to keep schools open for as long as possible.

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