No singing or gym class: Czech health ministry announces Covid rules for back-to-school

Students who refuse Covid testing will be temporarily banned from activities such as singing or indoor physical education classes.

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 17.08.2021 14:01 (updated on 17.08.2021)

Prague, August 17 (ČTK) - Students who refuse Covid-19 testing and cannot prove their Covid status otherwise will be temporarily banned from attending physical education indoors and won't be allowed to sing at school, says a new manual sent to schools by the Czech Health Ministry today.

In addition, these children will be required to wear face masks throughout the entire school day and will be asked to keep their distance (1.5 meters) from other students when eating and drinking. These rules will be in effect until the end of mass testing at schools on September 10, Heath Minister Adam Vojtěch and Roberta Plaga said at a press conference today.

"If a child refuses to be tested, he or she will have to wear a respirator from the age of 15, both in the school building and outdoors, if it is not possible to keep a distance of 1.5 meters from other pupils," the minister added.

Wearing respirators and face masks will be required on common school premises, but nose and mouth protection will not be necessary for the classroom.

Schools will also be required to isolate pupils with infection symptoms, with the ministry recommending that administrators establish an isolation room for these purposes. Hand sanitizers and a washbasin with running warm water should be made be available in these locations. A similar isolation room should be available in school dormitories.

All children and school employees will be required to undergo testing for Covid in early September, with the exception of those who are fully vaccinated or who had Covid-19 in the past 180 days.

Some parts of the ministry's manual are mere recommendations, while others are binding. The recommendations concern mainly the rules for disinfection, cleaning, and the organization of instruction and catering, but the rules for wearing face masks, isolation of the infected, and Covid testing at the start of the school year are obligatory.

Everyone entering a school building will have to wear a face mask or respirator on the basis of the Health Ministry's mandate, with the exception of people with disabilities or a medical certificate proving they cannot wear face masks for health reasons.

Though schools are not obliged to detect disease symptoms in children, the ministry says doing so is recommended.

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The ministry manual also includes dates for Covid testing at the beginning of the school year. Those are to be held on September 1, 6, and 9. Elementary school first graders can get tested on the second school day only, on September 2. Children can also get tested at official testing points and bring proof of negativity to school.

Next Tuesday, firefighters will begin distributing 4.2 million Covid antigen tests to schools in the regions for the three testing waves, Plaga told reporters today.

Schools can request antigen tests enabling self-sampling from the state. They can also use PCR tests but must acquire them themselves. These will be subsidized by the state at CZK 200 per test kit; for schools using the PCR method, testing once a week is sufficient.

So far, 150 schools have expressed interest in PCR tests that the ministry will cover retroactively with European funds, Plaga said.

If there are more than 25 positive cases per 100,000 tests at schools in one district, Covid testing there will continue once a week until the end of September.

If a child tests positive for Covid-19 via an antigen test, a PCR test must follow. Children who were in contact with an infected person in the previous days will also need to undergo a PCR test, Vojtěch said, adding that entire classes will not be closed.

Along with children, all school employees must submit a certificate about being tested for Covid-19 on the same dates as the children's testing. They can also bring and use self-test kits at schools. If they do not do so, they will have to wear face masks all the time at school unless they are fully vaccinated or underwent Covid infection in the past 180 days.

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Hand sanitizers with dispensers should be made available at the entrance to the school buildings and outside all classrooms, gyms, and the school cafeterias. All people entering the school should wash their hands thoroughly or use sanitizers. Frequent ventilation and cleaning are also recommended and all areas frequently touched by multiple people, such as door handles, switches, and keyboards, should be disinfected several times a day, the ministry writes.

Schools should also have a contactless thermometer available to measure temperatures in the case of a suspected infection, as well as sufficient reserves of disinfectants and face masks or respirators in case children forget them at home.

When it comes to school catering, the ministry recommends limiting contacts between various groups and preventing self-service. A maximum of six people should sit at one table in a school cafeteria. School meals cannot be picked up by people who are in Covid quarantine or isolation.

Vojtěch said that screening should give the ministry a better picture of the epidemiological situation throughout the entire country.

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"For this to make sense, children who are not tested and could potentially be infected without our being able to identify it will face these conditions. However, they are really only temporarily until the end of the testing," he added.

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