Highest COVID-19 risk among unvaccinated teachers as Turkey prepares to go back to school

Turkey is planning to go back to in-person classes for primary to high school levels on Sept. 6. As COVID-19 cases see another uptick, 28 percent of teachers haven’t completed their vaccinations, news website Karar reported on Sunday.

“Vaccines are the only solution,” Karar cited Health Minister Fahrettin Koca as saying. According to the minister, the biggest risk lies with unvaccinated teachers.

“Our priority is to keep schools open,” Education Minister Mahmut Özer said. The minister added that efforts continued to ensure two weekly coronavirus tests for unvaccinated teachers.

“I ask all parents, teachers and workers to follow the COVID-19 guidelines to the letter. We can manage these processes if we comply with rules,” Özer said.

Universities are also preparing to open again on Sept. 13.

According to teachers’ union Eğitim-Sen, teachers haven’t been informed on how many new classrooms have been built, how many new teachers and supporting staff were appointed, how air circulation will be ensured in classrooms, or what percentage of students over the age of 12 have received vaccines. The union has submitted an inquiry to the ministry for answers to their concerns.

Turkey ranked second among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for the longest school closures during the global coronavirus pandemic, with 18 million students remaining out of school for 1.5 years.

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