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Classes reopen in parts of Europe, UK rushes tests to schools

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LONDON: Schoolchildren returned to classes on Monday in parts of Europe, while the British government pledged to rush ventilation units and enough Covid-19 test kits to schools to ensure they, too, can reopen later this week despite soaring infection rates in the UK.
Secondary school students in England also will be required to wear face masks when they return to classes after the Christmas holidays and they could also face merged classes amid staffing shortages. PM Boris Johnson said the mask guidance is intended to rein in transmission of the virus. UK education secretary Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News: “The priority is to keep schools open.” He said testing, ventilation and other measures being put in place would”make a big difference to schools this year”. The highly transmissible Omicron variant has caused UK’s daily new caseload to soar over Christmas and the New Year, with 137,583 infections and 73 deaths reported for England and Wales only on Sunday.
Across Europe, schools were reopening or preparing for another new term overshadowed by the global pandemic. Children returned to class on Monday in several parts of Germany, where patchy testing and reporting over the holiday period means that the level of infections was somewhat uncertain. In Berlin, one of the states where schools reopened, the local education minister said daily testing for children will be carried out this week.
Over 12 million French children returned to school Monday, with new rules aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. French children from the age of 6 have been required to wear a face mask in classrooms since November. If a child tests positive, all other children in the same class must test negative three times in the next four days to stay at school.
Italian schools are not scheduled to reopen until next week, but already local leaders are mulling possible delays given the surge in cases in Italy. Dutch education minister Arie Slob said Monday that elementary and high school children will be allowed back to classrooms next Monday after a holiday that was extended to three weeks as part of lockdown.





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