January 17, 2022

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New Zealand becomes the latest country to allow children back to school

New Zealand becomes the latest country to allow children back to school
Hundreds of thousands of New Zealand children returned to lesson on Monday as schools around the world continue to reopen as coronavirus lockdowns ease.Excited youngsters greeted classmates for the first time in eight weeks in cities such as Wellington and Auckland after parents dropped them off at 'kiss and go zones' at the gate as…

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealand children returned to lesson on Monday as schools around the world continue to reopen as coronavirus lockdowns ease.

Excited youngsters greeted classmates for the first time in eight weeks in cities such as Wellington and Auckland after parents dropped them off at ‘kiss and go zones’ at the gate as part of strict social distancing measures.

Schools in Austria, Belgium and Portugal also reopened their doors for the first time in weeks on Monday, while more children were allowed to return to lessons in Greece.

Lessons have already resumed for pupils in France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Australia, parts of Canada and China as the global spread of disease slowed. 

Schools have remained open throughout the pandemic in places such as Iceland and Sweden. 

But Spain, Italy and the UK are taking a more cautious approach – with a majority of children unlikely to see the inside of a classroom before September, amid warnings their education will be permanently damaged.

NEW ZEALAND: School reopened on Monday as coronavirus lockdown measures eased across the country – though parents were banned from coming on to school grounds and told to ‘kiss and go’ at the gate instead (pictured)

NEW ZEALAND: A mother says goodbye to her daughter at the gate of a school in Auckland after parents were forbidden from walking their children to class as part of coronavirus social distancing measures

BELGIUM: Teenagers raise their hands to a teacher wearing a protective mask after the re-opening of the Institut Saint Boniface Parnasse highschool in Brussels

AUSTRIA: A pupil in a protective face mask watches his class mate washing her hands at an elementary school in Brunn am Gebirge after the government loosened its coronavirus lockdown

Where lessons have resumed, pupils have been taught about social distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus, with class sizes cut in half and teachers using sports stadiums and parks for lessons to maintain distancing.

Parents have also been barred from entering schools grounds – told to wave goodbye to their children at the gate and leave quickly to avoid crowds forming.

Here is how countries have been getting youngsters back into classes throughout the world…

NEW ZEALAND

Education Minister Chris Hipkins encouraged pupils to return to classrooms on Monday as schools reopened after the country dropped down to ‘Level 2’ of its coronavirus alert system. 

‘Our message is it’s safe to send kids back to school, we want kids back at school and catching up with any learning that they’ve lost during the lockdown,’ he told reporters.

He cautioned that a return to a noisy, bustling environment would be a ‘culture shock’ after a challenging period for both children and parents – but insisted it was the right thing to do.

Hundreds of thousands of children in New Zealand have been home-schooled since March 24, the first full day of the country’s coronavirus lockdown, but have now been allowed to return to the classroom as measures eased

Parents across New Zealand have been encouraged to send their children back to school by ministers in order to catch up on lost lesson time during the pandemic (pictured, a mother walks her daughter to school in Wellington)

Teachers attach a ‘welcome back’ banner to school gates in Auckland, New Zealand, as classes resumed on Monday

New Zealand, with a population of five million, has recorded 1,149 coronavirus cases and just 21 deaths, with its success largely attributed to a strict lockdown imposed in late March.

Most domestic lockdown restrictions ended last Thursday but schools were given extra time because of the difficulty in implementing health protocols among the very young.

That has translated into a poll boost for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, with new data revealing that she is now the country’s most popular leader for a century – with an election due to take place in September this year. 

Poll data gathered by the NZ Herald showed 59.5 per cent of people want her to continue as leader, up a huge 20.8 points since the last poll was conducted in February – as coronavirus was spreading but before the country went into lockdown. 

Instead of escorting their children to class, parents dropped them at ‘kiss and go’ zones, while early childhood centres recorded personal details needed for contact tracing.

Pupils’ first lessons after getting back into the classroom were on social distancing and hand washing as teachers attempt to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections

A teacher instructs one of her students about the importance of using hand sanitizer at a school in Auckland on Monday

BELGIUM

Belgium took the next step in its relaxation of the country’s coronavirus lockdown on Monday, with more students going to school, and markets and museums reopening.

Schools were permitted to go through a dry run on Friday, but primary and secondary classes resumed for real Monday with a limited amount of pupils to make sure social distancing was fully respected. 

In many cases, though, distance learning on laptops remained the order of the day.

A teacher wearing a protective mask calls to students at the re-opening of Institut Saint Boniface Parnasse highschool in Ixelles, Belgium this morning

Students and teachers wearing protective face masks stand on social distancing marks outside a francophone primary school during its reopening in Jumet, as a small part of Belgian children head back to their schools today

Teenagers listen to a teacher wearing a protective mask after the re-opening of the Institut Saint Boniface Parnasse highschool in Ixelles this morning

Barbers can also resume work, even though Monday used to be their traditional day off. Both barber and client will have to wear protective masks.

Hoping to make the most of the sunny weather, open-air markets can start selling the plentiful spring fruits and vegetables.

And zoo animals, bereft of visitors since March, will have eyes on them again as parks can reopen. Museums will reopen as well and, like zoos, will have a strict reservation system to avoid overcrowding.

AUSTRIA

A majority of Austrian schoolchildren returned to their classrooms on Monday, after pupils facing exams returned to classrooms early on May 4.

Most classes will be split in half with some children being taught Monday to Wednesday, and the rest taught Thursday and Friday. The classes will then swap around each week.

Austria acted early in its outbreak to shut schools, bars, restaurants, non-essential shops and other gathering places more than a month ago. The public has been told to stay at home and work from there if possible.

The country has reported 16,296 cases of the virus and 629 deaths, with the rate of infection slowing in recent weeks which has led to calls for the reopening.

It has already reopened DIY and garden centers as well as smaller shops, along with cafes and restaurants. 

Children wearing protective face masks walk along a corridor in a primary school in Brunn am Gebirge, Austria, this morning as the country’s schools reopen for pupils aged roughly six to 14

Back to work: Children wearing protective face masks sit in a classroom at a school in Brunn am Gebirge, Austria

A majority of Austrian schoolchildren returned to their classrooms on Monday, after pupils facing exams returned to classrooms early on May 4

Most classes will be split in half with some children being taught Monday to Wednesday, and the rest taught Thursday and Friday. The classes will then swap around each week. This was the scene at a school in Brunn am Gebirge this morning

GREECE

Greece reopened the Acropolis in Athens and other ancient sites Monday, along with high schools, shopping malls and mainland travel in the latest round of easing pandemic restrictions imposed in late March.

Paving stickers were used as markers to keep visitors apart outside the Acropolis, while students were placed on rotation with online teaching to keep classes below 50% capacity.

Public compliance with strict lockdown measures helped keep the COVID-19 death toll to 166 while the total number of confirmed cases stood at 2,834 on Sunday. 

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis enters a classroom during his visit to a secondary school in Athens this morning. Greece reopened the Acropolis in Athens and other ancient sites Monday, along with high schools, shopping malls, and mainland travel in the latest round of easing pandemic restrictions imposed in late March

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks with a pupil during his visit to a secondary school in Athens

But authorities are keen to reopen the vital tourism sector, following a warning by the EU Commission that Greece is likely to suffer the worst recession in the bloc this year.

Public beaches reopened over the weekend amid heatwave temperatures, with strict distancing rules imposed by the government, but crowding did occur on buses from Athens to the nearby coast.

Travel to the Greek islands remains broadly restricted.

PORTUGAL

High schools and nurseries were allowed to reopen on Monday along with restaurant, bar and cafe terraces as the country continues to relax its coronavirus lockdown.

It comes as Portugal transitioned to its second phase of scaling back confinement measures following the positive government assessment of the evolution of its COVID-19 outbreak.

The first stage of the reopening process began with small shops and businesses such as hairdressers last month. 

Students wearing protective face masks sit in a classroom at D. Pedro V High School this morning, as grade 11 and 12 high school students return to schools under strict restrictions, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Lisbon, Portugal

High schools and nurseries were allowed to reopen on Monday along with restaurant, bar and cafe terraces as the country continues to relax its coronavirus lockdown. Pictured: Students in Lisbon use hand sanitizer this morning

As with other European countries, the reopening is contingent on social distancing measures remaining in place. 

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa also unveiled the plan for the reopening of beaches on June 6. Social distancing restrictions will have to be in place, with a maximum capacity for each beach.

The government announced that citizens will be able to check online or via a mobile phone application the current capacity of each beach.

FRANCE

Children continued returning to schools on Monday as middle schools in regions with low virus transmission rates were allowed to return to classes.

It comes after nurseries and kindergartens were allowed to reopen last week with social distancing in place after the spread of coronavirus slowed.

Class sizes have been capped at 15 pupils in middle schools and 10 students in younger classes, with teachers told to prioritise learning for children ages 5, 6 and 10.

However, school attendance is not yet compulsory meaning only around a third of pupils in permitted age groups have returned to classes. The remainder continue to be schooled at home. 

Schoolchildren wearing protective mouth masks and face shields attend a course in their classroom at Claude Debussy college in Angers, western France, this morning

French children continued returning to schools on Monday (pictured) as middle schools in regions with low virus transmission rates were allowed to return to classes

This was the scene in the French city of Angers this morning as schoolchildren and teachers wore wearing protective face masks and queued to enter Claude Debussy college

A teacher checks the body temperature of a schoolgirl wearing a protective face mask before entering Claude Debussy college in Angers, western France, this morning

Just one week after a third of French schoolchildren went back to school in an easing ofthe coronavirus lockdown, there’s been a worrying flareup of about 70 COVID-19 cases linked to schools.

Eight school close in one French city 

Eight schools have been closed in one city in northern France after a child tested positive for coronavirus

Seven public schools and one private institution were shuttered in the city of Roubaix, on the Belgian border, on Monday morning.

It comes after a child in a reception class – which went back to school last week – was confirmed to be carrying the virus.

The schools were closed ‘as a precaution’ while investigators try to determine who the child has been in contact with, local officials said. 

Authorities said that most of the affected schools will be able to reopen by May 25. 

Some schools were opened last week and a further 150,000 junior high students went back to the classroom Monday as further restrictions were loosened by the government. 

The move initially spelled relief: the end of homeschooling for many hundreds of thousands of exhausted French parents, many whom were also working from home.

But French Education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer sounded the alarm Monday, telling French radio RTL that the return has put some children in new danger of contamination. 

He said the affected schools are being closed immediately. French media reported that seven schools in northern France were closed.

The situation highlights the precarious situation the French government is finding itself in as it seeks both to reassure the public that the country is moving forward past coronavirus and to react prudently to safeguard public health.

Blanquer did not specify if the 70 cases of COVID-19 were among students or teachers.

Given that the incubation period for the virus is several days, people are ‘likely’ to have been infected before the reopening of the schools, he said.

France reopened about 40,000 preschools and primary schools last week, with classes capped at 15 students.

RUSSIA 

Some classes have resumed for pupil’s in Russia’s far east despite the country now having one of the fastest-growing infection rates of any country.

Moscow health officials said 77 people with coronavirus have died in the city in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number for the Russian capital so far.

Some classes have resumed for pupil’s in Russia’s far east today (pictured) despite the country now having one of the fastest-growing infection rates of any country

11th grade students attend a Social Sciences class at a Russian high school today. The students are required to keep social distancing and wear face masks and gloves

Moscow health officials said 77 people with coronavirus have died in the city in the past 24 hours, the highest daily number for the Russian capital so far. Pictured a student wearing a face mask during a school break

With a total of more than 146,000 confirmed infections and 1,580 deaths, Russia’s capital currently accounts for more than half of the country’s virus cases and 58% of all reported deaths.

Russia’s caseload surpassed 290,000 on Monday, with the death toll exceeding 2,700. The country’s comparatively low death rate has raised questions in the West, with experts suggesting Russia may be under-reporting deaths.

Russian officials vehemently deny these allegations and attribute the relatively low number of Covid-19 deaths to measures the country has taken to curb the spread of the virus.

DENMARK 

Upper school classes resumed on Monday as the country continued to relax its lockdown measures, including allowing cafes and restaurants to reopen their outdoor seating areas.

It comes after some pupils were allowed to return to lessons last month with social distancing. Denmark has encouraged teachers to use outdoor spaces like stadiums and parks to reduce the risk of infection.

Children were pictured taking part in lessons at Telia Parken, one of Denmark’s main football stadiums in Copenhagen, as more classes got underway on Monday. 

Teachers sing a song as part of a morning ritual as pupils return to school but not necessarily to their classrooms in Denmark. This lesson is taking place in Telia Parken, Copenhagen’s main football stadium, to reduce the risk of infection

Children attend a class held in the high class tribune at the Telia Parken stadium in order to keep social distancing as more pupils are allowed to return to school in Denmark

Meanwhile, at French bistro L’education nationale in Denmark’s capital Copenhagen, Eric Poezevara had filled his fridges and was impatient to welcome back lunch clients outdoors on a terrace as well as indoors.

“The ambiance is going to be a little strange. People go to restaurants to enjoy themselves, but now, people are going to be a little tense, looking around and thinking ‘Do you have corona, or don’t you?,” he said prior to Monday’s lunch rush.

The restaurant can welcome only half as many guests as usual, in order to respect social distancing rules.

“We’ll see if it’s worth it,” Poezevara said.

Under new rules, Danish restaurants must respect social distancing regulations, offer guests hand sanitiser, and pay particular attention to hygiene.

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