Spain’s central government and regions will decide next week whether to revise health protocols in schools across the country, which are slated to reopen on January 10. Next Tuesday there will be a meeting of the Ministries of Health, Education and Universities, as well as the regional heads of education. , to analyze the return to class. According to executive sources, there are currently no plans to delay the return of students to class or change current protocols, which include mandatory masks for those over six. The dizzying rise in coronavirus cases, however, means that changes could still be made to prevention measures.
The central government estimates that, despite the increase in cases recorded in the last weeks of the first academic semester, the overall impact on schools will remain low. Most of the cases were seen in elementary schools, where students had not yet been vaccinated. However, the campaign has now shifted to this group and yesterday 25% of children aged five to 11 had received their first dose of the vaccine.
“The educational model of face-to-face teaching has been successful and is the model of the Spanish government, because classrooms are safe spaces,” Health Minister Carolina Darias said this week.
So far, only the Madrid area has said it is considering home schooling for older students. Regional Prime Minister Isabel DÃaz Ayuso said the decision would be taken “a few days in advance”. Catalan health chief Carmen Cabezas has said she supports the opening of schools “normally” on January 10, a position that was also taken by her Balearic counterpart, Patricia GÃ³mez.
The regional prime ministers of Castile and LeÃ³n, Castilla-La Mancha and Extremadura also defended a normal return to school, while the head of health in Murcia, Juan JosÃ© PedreÃ±o, said that “l ‘Status of epidemiological data’ should be reviewed before a decision is made. Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and La Rioja all foresee a normal return to school without major changes.
The NGO Save the Children has called for the closure of schools due to coronavirus infections to be completely ruled out or at least “as a last resort”. The Madrid Regional Platform for Public Schools, which brings together the main teachers’ unions and other organizations in the education community, also called for the new mandate to start âsafely and in personâ.
The end of the first semester of the 2021-22 school year ended with major issues in elementary schools. A record number of coronavirus outbreaks was recorded in December: 463. During the last week of classes, 5,433 groups were sent home for isolation, or 1.3% of the total.
High schools fared much better, given that teens have mostly been vaccinated, experts say. According to the protocols in place, close contacts of positive cases do not have to isolate themselves, meaning that fewer classes had to be confined among these older students. That said, infections have increased rapidly in the 12 to 19 age group, with the incidence rising to 1,250 cases per 100,000 population over 14 days on Tuesday, compared to a national average of 1,360.
Epidemiologists believe that the immunity offered by vaccines against infection begins to decline in adolescents, although protection against serious illness is maintained. This, combined with the spread of the more contagious omicron strain of the virus, means the situation for high school students could be more complicated this coming semester.