Cyprus swaps student quarantine with 5 days of virus tests

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) —

Cyprus is changing its compulsory quarantine rules for school children in an effort to keep pupils in school amid surging coronavirus infections, the country's health minister said Wednesday.

Under the new system, schoolkids who were in close contact with classmates who test positive will no longer face compulsory quarantine. Instead, they must undergo either a rapid or a self-test for five consecutive days while continuing to attend school — so long as they test negative.

Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said after a Cabinet meeting that the month-long effort starting next week will apply to primary and secondary students regardless if they’ve been vaccinated or not.

The aim of the so-called “test to stay” scheme is to keep schools running by quickly identifying and isolating newly infected students without keeping classmates away from lessons.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry is scrambling to find substitutes for absent teachers. Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said authorities have mobilized to cover all teacher absences and pleaded with teachers’ unions to stop disclosing data that gives “misleading impressions” about the extent of the problem.

Unvaccinated teachers must be rapid tested every 48 hours. Those without a booster shoot need to undergo a rapid test once weekly.

The primary school teachers’ union will hold an ad hoc meeting of its members to decide whether to call strike action over what it calls “inadequate” measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 in schools, state broadcaster CyBC reported.

Also, as of Jan. 14, travelers to Cyprus must have undergone either a rapid antigen or a PCR test within 24 and 72 hours respectively prior to arrival. Anyone intending to travel to Cyprus but has contracted COVID-19 must wait 10 days before setting off.

Cyprus has seen an infection rate of over 3% for the last two weeks with the health care system feeling the pressure as hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients has been on a steady rise.