Armenian schools and universities were shut down and switched to online classes in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government decided last month to reopen them amid a falling number of coronavirus cases recorded in the country.
Under a safety protocol issued by it, there can be no more than 20 schoolchildren in a classroom at a time and they all will have to wear face masks. School administrations will have to provide the students with hand sanitizers and regularly disinfect classrooms.
The mask-wearing requirement has been criticized by many parents, some education experts and opposition politicians. They say it could complicate the learning process and cause children breathing problems.
Pashinian rejected the criticism, saying that these and other safety rules are essential for preventing mass infections in schools. He said such outbreaks could reverse a continuing decrease in coronavirus cases in Armenia which began in early August.
“We have to take [unpopular] steps in order to avoid a new epidemiological crisis,” Pashinian said during a weekly session of his cabinet in Yerevan.
“The decisions made by us apply to not only the children of other people but also our children,” he said. “Our children don’t have a privileged status in schools, kindergartens or any other places.”
The premier then told Education Minister Arayik Harutiunian to ensure strict enforcement of the protocol in all educational institutions.
As part of preparations for the reopening of the schools, the Armenian health authorities began earlier this week testing all schoolteachers for COVID-19. This is why the Ministry of Health has reported for the last two days a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus tests carried out across the country.
The ministry has registered 45,326 coronavirus cases and 906 deaths directly caused by the disease since the start of the pandemic.