‘If we didn’t have the virus, we will now’: Madrid teachers complain over testing debacle

'If we didn't have the virus, we will now': Madrid teachers complain over testing debacle
Queues stretch outside a school in Madrid where teachers were sent for testing. Photo: AFP
Madrid has had to rethink plans to give all teaching staff coronavirus antibody tests ahead of the new academic year after crowds made social distancing impossible.

Teachers were yesterday informed that they could turn up for antibody tests at one of five different testing stations set up at schools across the capital.

Thousands of staff were given appointments between Wednesday and Monday ahead of schools reopening to pupils next week.

The surprise initiative has been introduced by Madrid’s regional government as part of a raft of measures designed to keep staff and children safe when schools reopen in the face of a secondwave of infections that has hit the capital.

The move to carry out widespread testing was broadly welcomed by teachers unions until it became apparent that multiple appointments had been issued for the same time slot resulting in huge crowds of teachers waiting for tests.

Some reported waiting for up to two hours to get the tests and being squeezed together on pavements while they waited in the hottest part of the day.

 

 “If a teacher didn’t have the coronavirus when they arrived, they will be infected now,” quipped one teacher outside the IES Virgen de la Paloma school and quoted in El Confidencial on Wednesday  

“What are parents going to think when they see their children's teachers crowding together without any type of social distancing?” he asked.

Others questioned the wisdom of gathering large groups of teachers together in five places instead of sending health professionals to individual schools to carry out testing of staff, who went back to work on Monday to plan lessons and organise classrooms ahead of the start of the academic year.

 

By lunchtime, education authorities called off the testing and told people queuing to return to their schools. The appointments would be rescheduled and testing hours extended, according to Ministry of Education statement.

One teacher explained that they were given an appointment for 10:30am and arrived at the designated testing centre at 10:15am only to discover there was already a line of people stretching 1.5km from the door.

“By 1pm I was still 500metres from the entrance,” explained a teacher named Maria quoted in El Mundo.

The debacle will do little to improve relations between teachers and an administration that has already been criticised for failing to properly inform and prepare teachers ahead of the start of the school year.

Madrid regional authorities said they were committed to carrying out testing on some 100,000 staff at schools in the capital.

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