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(DF) Schools Start Testing Students, In-person Classes Resume from Nov 8

November 3 (BTA) – School students can return to in-person classes from November 8 if safe environment is provided, the Bulgarian Health Ministry said Wednesday. The Ministry did not specify whether the decision concerns all school students or only those from first to fourth grade, as previously expected. An order by caretaker Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov allows students from municipalities with an infection rate of over 500 per 100,000 population on a two-week basis, to go back to in-person classes under the condition that they will be screened for COVID-19 twice a week. Teachers and other school staff will be required to have a COVID-19 certificate for vaccination, past infection, or a negative PCR or antigen test. Free antigen tests will be available in the schools for the staff. In municipalities where the infection rate is between 250 and 500 per 100,000 population, school authorities will have two options: either resume in-person classes for all students if they are tested regularly or introduce in-person classes for only half of the students without screening them and following detailed rules determined by the Education Minister. No testing is required for students and school staff if a municipality has an infection rate under 250 per 100,000. The order allows in-person classes to begin after November 8, but the specific date for each school will depend on their readiness to implement the anti-epidemic measures. In-person classes will be allowed for separate schools or groups of students at the discretion of educational authorities. In a Dnevnik interview here on Wednesday, caretaker Health Minister Stoycho Katsarov said that the Health Ministry has already chosen two suppliers of COVID-19 tests for school students. The initial agreement is for 400,000 tests which, according to Katsarov, will be enough for a few weeks and extra testing kits will be ordered later. The COVID-19 tests are saliva-based and the pupils will spit in a bag so that there is no need for a swab to be inserted in the mouth. The screening will take place every Monday and Thursday, during the first school class for the day. Students whose parents have not agreed for them to be tested, will stick to online classes, the Health Minister said. Students older than fourth grade from municipalities with an infection rate of over 500 per 100,000 on a two-week basis, would also be able to go back to in-person classes. The COVID-19 tests for them will be ordered “within the next few weeks”, Katsarov added. LN/KK