Back to school in Europe amid surge in coronavirus cases, safety protocols

Madrid, Jan 7 (EFE).- Millions of children across Europe are returning to school this week amid a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant and new safety protocols to curb the spread of the virus.

Despite France recording over 200,000 daily infections over the Christmas period, schools reopened on Monday this week after the holidays.

Since the reopening of schools, 47,453 positive cases have been detected among students and 5,631 among teaching staff, according to the ministry of education.

Additionally, due to contagion in the last week, 28 schools have been forced to close and over 9,200 classes have been cancelled.

Safety protocols involve mass testing, in which children are tested up to three times when in contact with a positive case.

But despite increasing school closures, Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer insists the objective is to keep schools open “as much as possible”.

The United Kingdom has also prioritized classes to take place in schools instead of online despite the rising number of infections, which have been exceeding 200,000 per day.

New safety measures have been put in place to curb the transmission of Omicron which include the mandatory use of face masks for secondary students in classrooms.

Face-to-face classes continue to be the British government’s priority, according to the Ministry of Education, despite the expected spike in the absence of teachers due to self-isolation.

At the end of the term before Christmas, schools faced an 8% of staff absences, a figure that is expected to increase, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said.

Meanwhile, despite over a thousand principals of schools in Italy requesting classes to take place online for two weeks after the Christmas holidays, the government on Friday confirmed schools will reopen on Monday next week.

“The government has made a clear decision: we will resume on the 10th with the new rules that will guarantee greater security,” Health Undersecretary Andrea Costa announced.

The new rules include face coverings in classrooms as well as mass testing.

Some 80,000 teachers and educational staff are currently in isolation, according to local press. This means that when schools reopen on Monday, an average of ten workers per school will be missing, forcing schools to reduce schedules and shift to online classes.

Spanish children will return to classes Monday, where 31.5% of children between 5 and 11 years of age have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 86.8 % of the population between 12 and 19 years old has completed the full course. EFE


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