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As COVID-19 surges, Spain's back-to-school plans sow confusion, anger

As COVID-19 surges, Spain's back-to-school plans sow confusion, anger

A health care worker performs a PCR test to Heysi Cura at Federica Montseny primary health care center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Madrid, Spain, August 20, 2020. REUTERS/Juan Medina

MADRID: With coronavirus cases surging and less than two weeks of the school holidays left, parents, teachers and opposition politicians in Spain are angry and critical about the government's plans for reopening classrooms.

Latest government data showed daily infections peaked at 7,609 on Friday - the highest level since late March - before dropping to 3,715 on Wednesday. However, the fall may not represent a trend as similar declines have persistently been followed by new peaks in recent weeks.

"Not a single Spanish family knows what will happen to their children when the school year starts," said Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative opposition People's Party, accusing Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's leftist government of keeping the country guessing.

"We cannot let a whole generation of children have their education held back because of a lack of planning," he said.

In Spain's decentralized political system each region is in charge of regulating the return to school, though the central government is set to present national guidelines next week.

In Madrid, where more than 1,500 new cases were reported on Wednesday, regional authorities did not rule out delaying face-to-face classes, putting a strain on working families.

"We have to be a bit careful about the date of reopening the schools," deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero told Reuters. "Perhaps, due to the level of positives, we will have to rethink about if we open (schools) by ages."

Still, deputy regional leader Ignacio Aguado said he was in favour of bringing children back to the classroom.

Frustrated with what they described as a lack of resources and a failure to deploy adequate safety measures, teachers unions in the capital have called a series of strikes for the first weeks of September.

With more than 370,000 cases, Spain has the highest number of total infections in western Europe. It has been forced to reimpose some restrictions after the end of its strict lockdown in late June.

Its total death toll is nearly 29,000. However the toll of about 20 deaths per day so far in August is well below over 800 deaths a day in late March.

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Source: Reuters/nh


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