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Slovakia braces for schools reopening amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovakia did particularly well in containing the first coronavirus wave by introducing, early on, strong restrictions on the daily lives of people. Among them were school children, who had to follow their classes from home for most of the spring semester, and were only allowed to conduct certain activities at the closed schools (rescheduled exams, giving out year-end report cards and so on). slovakia schools covid

These restrictions were indeed impactful and helped flatten the curve, at least until the number of infections started to rise again during the summer due to the easing of travel restrictions, the reopening of places such as restaurants, together with the relaxation of compulsory mask wearing outside (masks are still mandatory in closed spaces).

Schools reopening in Slovakia: a safe place for whom?

However, perhaps the most dangerous places are yet to reopen: schools, an ideal playground for any virus, with coronavirus being no exception. Some experts warn that they might pose particular danger, as they would allow the spread of the virus between children, less likely to show symptoms of COVID-19, and therefore indirectly facilitate the infection of more at risk-people, including the elderly or chronically ill.

After a fierce debate between cabinet members about the precautions to take to combat the spread of COVID-19 in schools, set to reopen in September, the government has decided to ask parents to sign affidavits at the beginning of the year, declaring that their offsprings have showed no symptoms of the virus and confirming they did not visit countries identified as high-risk during the summer holidays.

A “flawed” solution amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Commentators were quick to point out that this solution wasn’t enough, considering, as shown over the past few weeks, that a number of people have not been completely transparent about their predicament, and sometimes even opted to escape the mandatory state quarantine or flout self-isolation rules after returning from abroad.

According to Education Minister Grohling, schools would only close down again if Slovakia experienced a significant rise in new COVID-19 cases. However, the epidemiological situation has already been getting worse for some weeks, with the largest daily hikes since the quarantine.

Whether this sudden rise in the number of new infections, or the start of a “second wave” prompts the Slovak government to take as drastic measures as it did five months ago remains to be seen. According to the Health Minister Marek Krajci, the second wave is already underway, and any further decisions will be made by the “pandemic commission”, which has already approved a new plan. Its details, however, still haven’t been disclosed.

Any anti-coronavirus measure at school should take into account that it’s not only about the safety of pupils sitting at their desks, but also about all those who surround and interact with them at school, outside, or at home.

By Mark Szabo

An international relations and European politics student at Masaryk University in Brno, Márk grew up in a bi-cultural Slovak-Hungarian family, stoking his interest in Central European politics. A former intern at the Bratislava-based Globsec Institute, Márk joined the team of Kafkadesk contributors in April 2019. To check out his latest articles, it’s right here!

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