Schools will never close again, vows health minister

Schools will never close again, vows health minister

Schools will never close again, vows health minister

All options and alternatives are on the cards to maintain face-to-face education and schools should never close again, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has said.

Some 18 million students and more than 1 million teachers returned to schools on Sept. 6 under strict anti-virus rules after nearly an 18-month break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the vaccinations are spreading, the Science Board insists that schools should be the last place to close but they should be among the institutions that should never close,” Koca said in a written statement released following a meeting of the board, which advises the government on the pandemic and the measures needed to be taken.

Koca also noted that in-person education across the country is running smoothly without any problems. “There has been no alarming situation [at the schools].”

Authorities are considering and are determined to take all necessary actions to keep schools open, the minister said.

“Those possible measures include dividing students in the classrooms into groups of two or even three, the shortening of class hours, and if necessary, holding classes on the weekends,” Koca elaborated.

Some 92 percent of the teachers have received their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine while 85 percent have either fully vaccinated or developed immunity, according to Education Minister Mahmut Özer, who noted that those vaccination rates are well above the country average.

The government requires unvaccinated teachers and other school personnel to take PCR tests.

“No school has been closed due to COVID-19 since the start of the new academic year,” Özer reiterated.

Nearly 107 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Turkey since mid-January when the country rolled out its inoculation drive.

Some 69 percent of the population aged 18 and above, or around 43 million people, have received two doses of the jab, while more than 53 million people, which correspond to 86 percent of the adult population, have been given the first dose of the vaccine.

Meanwhile, Koca warned that the rise in the number of daily cases, triggered by the increased mobility in the past three weeks, are nearing levels which make it difficult to bring the pandemic under control.