STA, 25 January 2020 - Mass testing of teachers and other personnel in education is under way in Slovenia on Monday in the largest such testing operation yet as kindergartens and the first three grades of primary school are set to reopen in nine of Slovenia's 12 regions on Tuesday, with a final decision due in the afternoon.
No major disruption is reported in what is the largest single-day testing for coronavirus so far.
Some kindergarten and school staff are being tested in their institutions or in community health centres, while testing for more than 3,000 employees of kindergartens and primary schools in the capital is organised at the Ljubljana fairgrounds.
Gregor Pečan, the head of the Association of Head Teachers, told the STA that while there were no official responses from his colleagues around the country, while some staff had already expressed their disagreement with the mandatory testing beforehand.
"Procedures are running smoothly, and we have not had a positive case so far," said the head teacher of the primary school in Dol pri Ljubljani for the school in question, where around 90 employees are to return to work tomorrow.
In the Ljubljana municipality, kindergarten and primary school staff are being tested since the early morning, and 3,260 of them are expected to be tested by 8pm.
Around 1,100 persons were tested in the first four hours, and only three infections were confirmed, testing coordinator Uroš Zafošnik of the Ljubljana Community Health Centre told the STA. The testing involving around 50 medical staff runs smoothly as the employees had been assigned precise time slots.
Around 800 teachers and other employees in the 20 primary schools in Maribor will start to be tested in the early afternoon.
"The experiences are different, of course, as some head teachers are reporting certain problems, but these are individual cases," Mojca Kirbiš, a representative of head teachers in Maribor, said.
Helena Ocvirk of the Olga Meglič primary school in Ptuj said that employees had had some reservations about the testing at first, but later accepted the measure as it was mandatory for those who wanted to work with children in-person.
Health Ministry State Secretary Alenka Forte told the press that today's testing was the "largest testing in a single day so far", adding that it was a major organisational and logistic challenge.
According to Forte, no complications with the mass testing with rapid antigen tests have been reported so far.
Testing will have to be repeated every seven days, while the staff who have recovered from Covid-19 and those who had been infected more than three weeks ago need not to be tested.
Around 53,000 primary school pupils and almost 75,000 kindergarten children are expected to return to classrooms tomorrow, after in-person classes for special needs children started three weeks ago.
However, this is still not certain as Prime Minister Janez Janša, speaking in parliament today, put the reopening into doubt, saying that "we still don't know whether classes in schools will really be re-started on Tuesday."
Janša said he expected the opinion from the Education Ministry, the National Public Health Institute and the government Covid-19 advisory team on the matter by 4pm.
The prime minister explained that the issue remained open because of the discovery of the highly transmissible UK coronavirus variant in Slovenia. Studies in the UK show that it spreads fast among children, he added.