Public health authorities in Sao Paulo have started a large-scale COVID-19 testing programme for public school employees and students, as Brazil’s largest city seeks to edge back to normality and reopen schools next month.
Under the programme, which began on Thursday, Sao Paulo is planning to test some 777,000 people, including students and teachers, in three phases, a move officials hope will allow the megalopolis to begin in-person classes.
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In the first phase, 193,000 people will be tested.
Sao Paulo is not alone in relying on tests as a key part of its strategy to gets schools back up and running. Main school districts in the United States and elsewhere are relying on similar strategies.
But the effort in Brazil is among the most daunting. Sao Paulo has more than 12 million people living within the city limits. Almost 13,000 Paulistas, as city residents are known, have died from the virus.
The city has reported a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases since September 10, but students and teachers remained sceptical about whether conditions are conducive to the reopening of schools.
“I think there is no way (the schools will reopen this year). For me there is no condition, I am absolutely against it. I think we should invest in the (online) platform and do not return this year,” said Cledronira Moraes, a principal at Maximo de Moura Santos’ school.
Student Vitor Machado agreed.
“It would be very good to return to school, but no. It would be better to do the (academic) year again, because if we return this year, in November, we will have such a short time.”
Schools have been closed since March 23.
In the first phase of the testing programme, workers from some 468 public health clinics will fan out around the city to administer tests over the course of 15 days.