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World News

Poland plans to fully reopen schools in September despite COVID-19 spike

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland intends to fully reopen its schools on Sept. 1, the education minister said on Wednesday, despite a recent renewed spike in coronavirus infections.

Poland was initially successful in containing the outbreak, but cases started rising after restrictions on public gatherings were eased. On Tuesday authorities reported the fourth record daily increase in a week, with 680 new infections. [nL8N2F62C4]

Poland, a nation of 38 million people, had recorded a total of 48,789 cases and 1,756 deaths as of Wednesday.

“We want students to come back to normal education in schools from September,” said Education Minister Dariusz Piontkowski.

He said the ministry would impose strict hygiene and safety rules for schools, as well as criteria under which some schools could switch to online or a mix of online and in-class instruction in case of local infection spikes.

Wearing masks in classes would not be mandatory.

“We are not planning to limit the number of students in class. If there is an epidemic threat, the headmaster may adopt a solution where the number is limited or some students come to school and others learn online,” Piontkowski added.

He further said the conservative government would oblige parents to send their children back to school even if they worried about infections, as “a parent is not an epidemiologist”.

Parents, teachers and education activists say they are hoping children can return to class but are deeply concerned about overcrowded schools in big cities.

“In Poland, in big cities, we have up to a thousand children in one school...Maintaining any social distance under such conditions is impossible,” said Dorota Loboda, an education activist and Warsaw city council member from the main, liberal opposition party Civic Coalition.

Reporting by Alicja Ptak and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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