Millions of mask-wearing children have returned to school on Tuesday in Europe as governments intensify efforts to get pupils back in class in spite of the undiminished Coronavirus infections which have crossed the four million mark across the continent for the first time.
Schools have opened in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belgium and France where teachers and children aged 11 and older were made to wear face masks. Since the lockdown imposed in March, most children have missed months of education.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time!” 12-year-old Chahda told AFP excitedly as she arrived with her friend at school in the southern French city of Marseille.
However, the largest school district in the United States — New York City — announced a delay to in-person classes at public institutions until September 21, after reaching an agreement with a prominent teachers’ union that had threatened a strike over health concerns it felt had gone unaddressed.
In Europe, the decision to go ahead with school resumption has been widely welcome despite the fact that the Coronavirus is still spreading rapidly in many countries. “I am convinced that we can and will prevent a second general shutdown,” Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said, revealing date to suggest his country has passed the worst of its recession.
An AFP tally of infections, using official figures from across Europe, showed that more than four million people have been infected with the illness, with Russia accounting for almost a quarter of infections.
The Coronavirus emerged late last year in China and has now infected more than 25 million people all over the world and killed almost 850,000. The Chinese city at the centre of the initial outbreak, Wuhan, took another leap back to normality on Tuesday when its almost 1.4 million youngsters also returned to schools and kindergartens. State media broadcast images of thousands of students hoisting the Chinese flag — a daily routine at all public schools — despite warnings to avoid mass gatherings.