YEREVAN — Teachers in Armenia queued up at polyclinics on Wednesday to undergo mandatory coronavirus tests ahead of the reopening of the country’s schools scheduled for September 15.
The Armenian government shut down all schools and universities in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Virtually all of them switched to online classes that continued until the end of the last academic year in June.
The government decided last month to reopen all educational institutions amid a falling number of coronavirus cases recorded in the country. Under the safety protocols issued by it, there can be no more than 20 students in a classroom at a time and all of them will have to wear face masks during classes.
For their part, the school administrations will have to provide the students with hand sanitizers and regularly disinfect classrooms. They must also ensure all teachers get tested for COVID-19 by September 15.
There were chaotic scenes on Wednesday at Yerevan’s Polyclinic No. 8 where teachers from two schools were scheduled to have coronavirus tests. Not all of them observed physical distancing as they waited in a long line formed in a crowded polyclinic courtyard. Many decried the lack of space there, saying that they risk getting infected with COVID-19.
“We are jeopardizing not only ourselves but also our students,” one angry teacher told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “If you consider this barn a medical institution then I don’t know what to say.”
“I’m not concerned, I’m angry because all this testing could have been organized inside schools in proper manner without this fuss,” said another.
Other teachers were too scared to enter the building and waited their turn outside it. “I have a small child and an elderly person at home and am now afraid of entering the building in these conditions,” explained one of them. “They are not preventing but actually contributing to the spread of the disease.”
“Maybe we summoned too many teachers at a time and are having such a problem because of that,” acknowledged the polyclinic director, Armine Harutiunyan.
The Ministry of Health reported in the morning that a record-high 3,518 coronavirus tests have been carried out across Armenia in the past day. The daily number of such tests has averaged roughly 2,000 during the pandemic.
A ministry spokeswoman confirmed that the sharp increase is the result of the mass testing among schoolteachers.