When the bells of schools and institutes ring this Monday and the classes fill up again after the Christmas break, the students will notice few changes compared to the day they went on vacation. The incidence has gone from 911 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on December 23 to 2,722 last Friday. In that period, the authorities have been imposing or recovering new restrictions to contain the epidemic outside the classrooms, due to the fear of the educational community of an uncertain return. Finally, there will not be a distance return, nor blended, because, in the words of the Minister of Education, Pilar Alegría, the classrooms are "safe spaces".
Nor will there be a reduction in the ratios in the classes, where the bubble groups will remain as they have been up to now. No major changes in the protocols, with the usual procedures for ventilation, hand washing and distance between tables. Nor disparity of criteria between some communities and others, because the measures, on this occasion, have been agreed by consensus and with the approval of all the autonomous governments and the ministries of Health, Education and Universities.
In person, "a coordinated decision"
The return to class this Monday will be face-to-face. Although the increase in the incidence of coronavirus during the Christmas holidays had raised some doubts about the returns to schools, finally the students will return to the classrooms normally. This was an issue that concerned families and teachers, who had been warning about the consequences of virtual education for students, both academically and emotionally. All the alarms went off when the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, recognized, during her balance of the year 2021, that she was working in "two scenarios": the return "with total normality" and another "blended".
Finally, the decision to return to face-to-face class has been made with the agreement of the Ministries of Health, Education and Universities and of all the autonomous communities. "It is a country decision taken in a coordinated and shared way," said Health Minister Carolina Darias after the extraordinary meeting on Tuesday of the inter-territorial Health Council, the Education Sector and the General Conference on University Policy.
With a mask at recess
In September, when the school year began, it was mandatory to wear a mask at recess. During the following weeks, the communities relaxed this rule, in the heat of the decrease in cases that the country experienced in October. But as of this January 10, the mask will once again be mandatory for use during rest periods in the open air in schools and institutes. A measure that is in line with the one taken by the Government at the beginning of the Christmas period, when it reimposed its use outdoors due to the increase in incidence.
Relaxation of quarantines for children under 12 years of age
What was not agreed in that meeting between the councilors and the Ministry of Health was the relaxation of the quarantines, which had been proposed by Madrid and Andalusia. The decision was postponed until the Public Health Commission this Friday, when it was finally decided that children under 12 who are in close contact with a partner who has tested positive for COVID only have to confine themselves in case of five or more most positive in their class.
That is, if a student tests positive, their classmates will be able to continue attending class normally, without the need to do the mandatory quarantine for the unvaccinated, even if they do not yet have the complete regimen or are not vaccinated. Yes, that entire class will be sent home if five or more positives accumulate or if they exceed 20% of the total in a period of at least seven days.
Those over 12 years of age must continue to comply, as they have done up to now, with the general strategy, adopting the latest changes in the forties, which go from 10 to seven days in the case of those who are not immunized, but without quarantine for those who have received the full schedule of the vaccine.
Health had set as a goal that 70% of those between 5 and 11 years old were vaccinated with at least one dose by the third week of February. Boys and girls in this age group have been the last to join the vaccination campaign. They did it at the end of December, so they still do not have the complete schedule, because between the first and the second dose they must wait eight weeks.
With everything, according to the latest Health report, just over a million children under 3.3 in this age group have received a dose of the vaccine, which represents 32.1% of the total. Minister Darias has shown this week in favor of encouraging vaccination, which she has once again classified as "the best measure" against COVID-19. In the following age group, which ranges from 12 to 19 years old and which would include secondary and high school students, the population vaccinated with the complete regimen reached 86.8%. From 20 to 29 years old, it is 81.2%.
"Second chance" at Universities
The increase in infections and the rapid expansion of omicron, which has placed Spain in incident rates not seen until now, threatened exams in universities, which like classes will also be face-to-face. Although the cases are being at this time of the pandemic, in general, milder, the isolation of the infected continues to be essential to contain the spread of the virus, which placed the infected university students in a scenario in which they could lose the tests that, in many cases, are carried out in February.
This is an assumption that the Ministry of Universities wants to avoid at all costs, also in line with the CRUE, which has guaranteed that "all the mechanisms" will be activated from the university centers to "guarantee the right to examination of those who cannot attend. for just cause ". The head of the branch, Joan Subirats, has indicated this week that he is working with the rectors so that the infected students do not lose the call and have a "second chance" to take the exam.