Coronavirus pandemic: Going back to school

Lessons from around the world: How other schools are reopening after Covid-19 lockdown

DENMARK: A teacher speaking with her pupils outside a park in Copenhagen last month. In addition to practising safe distancing and regular hand washing, classes must be held outdoors as much as possible. CHINA: In a viral video viewed more than seven
GERMANY: Children practising safe distancing at Petri primary school in Dortmund earlier this month as the school reopened following a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
DENMARK: A teacher speaking with her pupils outside a park in Copenhagen last month. In addition to practising safe distancing and regular hand washing, classes must be held outdoors as much as possible. CHINA: In a viral video viewed more than seven
DENMARK: A teacher speaking with her pupils outside a park in Copenhagen last month. In addition to practising safe distancing and regular hand washing, classes must be held outdoors as much as possible. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
AUSTRALIA: A student wearing a surgical mask in Brisbane, Queensland, last week. Students across Queensland were returning to classrooms for the first time in weeks after a period of learning from home.
AUSTRALIA: A student wearing a surgical mask in Brisbane, Queensland, last week. Students across Queensland were returning to classrooms for the first time in weeks after a period of learning from home. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
CHINA: In a viral video viewed more than seven million times, a child is seen having his shoes disinfected by a staff member at the school gate. Other procedures included having his clothes and haversack disinfected, and having his temperature taken before he is finally allowed to enter the school. PHOTOS: SCREEN GRABS FROM TWITTER
DENMARK: A teacher speaking with her pupils outside a park in Copenhagen last month. In addition to practising safe distancing and regular hand washing, classes must be held outdoors as much as possible. CHINA: In a viral video viewed more than seven
CHINA: Pupils at Yangzheng Primary School in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, wearing homemade hats with a long tube-like flap on each side. Measuring 1m in length, the flap ensures the wearer keeps a safe distance from others. PHOTO: FUTURISM.COM

BEIJING/SEOUL/TOKYO • "Social distancing hats", strict sanitisation routines, temperature-tracking apps, tables outfitted with plastic dividers - schools in China are taking a slew of measures to prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections as they start to resume classes after easing of the lockdown.

Provinces and cities are reopening universities, schools and kindergartens in a staggered manner.

For example, while schools in a handful of provinces reopened for graduating students early last month, final-year high school students in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou returned to school only on April 27 to prepare for their college entrance exams.

The Education Ministry requires students to have their temperatures checked at school entrances, and to display a "green" code of health via a smartphone health code program, among other measures.

In a viral video that has been viewed more than seven million times, a young boy is seen having his shoes disinfected by a staff member at the school gate, before he carefully removes and disposes of his face mask.

Next, he cleans his hands at a disinfecting machine, before moving to another gadget that sprays steam disinfectant on his clothes and haversack. He has his temperature taken at a machine before finally entering the school.

At Yangzheng Primary School in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, each child wears a homemade hat with a long tube-like flap on each side. Measuring 1m in length, the flap ensures the wearer keeps a safe distance from others.

Some provinces have taken extra vigilant measures. For example, Guangdong province required all 167,000 of the first batch of returning high school students and 30,000 teachers to undergo nucleic acid testing late last month.

Mainland China has reported nearly 83,000 cases of infection and almost 4,700 deaths.

In the central city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected late last year, high schools reopened on May 6. Some schools spaced out desks and organised smaller class sizes, said local media.

China Daily reported that some schools arranged staggered arrival times for teachers and students

In South Korea, high school seniors will return to school on Wednesday, despite growing concerns over widening chain infections traced to a cluster outbreak in Seoul's nightlife hub Itaewon. Precautions such as reducing class sizes and asking students to go to class on alternate days will be implemented.

Japan has left the decision of when and whether or not to reopen schools to local municipalities based on the number of infections in the area.

The Ministry of Health also released guidelines that include opening windows to ventilate classrooms, maintaining physical distance, checking temperatures daily and wearing face masks.

Schools in Australia's biggest state, New South Wales, reopened last Monday but allow students to attend only one day a week on a staggered basis.

The second-most populous state, Victoria, will resume face-to-face teaching from May 27. The state, including the city of Melbourne, will allow teenagers in classrooms first, followed by younger pupils from June 9.

In Germany, all students will return to school in the coming weeks. Class sizes have been cut by half, hallways have become one-way paths and breaks will be staggered.

Denmark opened primary schools and nurseries first, reasoning that young children are the least at risk and the most dependent on parents, who need to return to work.

REUTERS, NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 17, 2020, with the headline Lessons from around the world: How other schools are reopening after Covid-19 lockdown. Subscribe