Gaza children return to school despite virus fears

Gaza children return to school despite virus fears
Palestinian children in Gaza have returned to school on a reduced schedule after a five-month breakduring the Covid-19 outbreak
2 min read
Palestinian children on their first day back a school in five months [Getty]
Hundreds of thousands of children returned to school in Gaza on Saturday after a five-month suspension aimed at reining in the spread of the novel coronavirus in the crowded Palestinian territory.

Ziyad Thabit, undersecretary of the education ministry in the Islamist Hamas-ruled enclave, said pupils would follow a remedial curriculum throughout August and classes would be limited to four a day.

"The ministry has prepared a plan based on various scenarios for dealing with the school year," he said.

The United Nations agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, which provides education to hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza, said over 285,000 pupils had returned to its 277 schools.

In a statement, it said it has "put in place preventative measures such as providing all the necessary materials to sanitise schools" and training staff on how to use sanitation materials effectively.

It said it would cancel morning assemblies and keep children in classrooms during breaks to avoid too many pupils gathering in one place at a time.

"The measures will be reviewed once a week and improved as necessary," UNRWA said.

Pupils were not required to wear masks or keep distancing, but teachers at UNRWA schools poured sanitiser on students’ hands.

Around a million people live in Gaza, many of them in poverty and a third of them refugees. The territory has been under Israeli blockade since 2007, which has impacted its health system.

Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry has reported 78 cases of the Covid-19 illness, with one death.

There have been no known cases of community transmission among the 2 million residents of Gaza.

Due to limitations in the health care system, Hamas authorities have sought strict precautions to prevent an outbreak, largely shutting Gaza’s border with Israel and Egypt where infections have spiked and imposing mandatory quarantine at designated facilities for all arrivals.

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