PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech government plans to reopen schools for more students from March 1 with regular testing for coronavirus infections, which remain at high levels, ministers said on Monday.
Schools have been mostly closed since October as infections surged to among Europe’s highest, despite shop closures and restrictions on public events and a nighttime curfew.
Gradual reopening of schools has been one of the main demands from opposition parties and the public increasingly weary with the country’s lengthy lockdown.
In-class tuition is at the moment open only for children in the two lowest grades of elementary schools, along with kindergartens.
“If we secure enough (tests), nothing prevents children from beginning to return to schools,” Interior Minister Jan Hamacek told a news conference.
Education Minister Robert Plaga said the return would start with final years of primary and secondary schools and be followed by other grades, hand in hand with the government’s ability to secure enough suitable rapid-result antigen tests.
The plan for school reopening comes as hospitals in several regions creak under the inflow of COVID-19 patients, which is in part due to the spread of the more infectious British variant of the virus.
Germany on the weekend tightened entry restrictions on the Czech and Austrian borders due to spread of coronavirus mutations in the two countries.
The country of 10.7 million has reported 18,250 coronavirus deaths since the star to the pandemic, and daily cases were the second-highest in Europe after Portugal in the past two weeks according to data from EU’s disease control agency ECDC.
(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Angus MacSwan)