Ministers Express Concerns About Schools Reopening

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Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan said the Public Health Ministry is concerned about the imminent reopening of schools in 5 COVID-19 hit provinces.

The 2 ministries have been discussing how to get children back into classrooms safely for the new school semester in Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani.

Mr Teepsuwan said he would prioritise people’s health when considering whether schools should be allowed to open as planned on 1st February.

He said his own view was that early childhood schools be the first to reopen, pointing out that the ministry had previously arranged early childhood education twice during the pandemic.

For provinces declared maximum control zones, classes may have to be divided into smaller groups with staggered school schedules, Mr Teepsuwan said, adding that the ministry would consider a variety of measures to suit the needs of each area.

Apisamai Srirangsun, an assistant spokeswoman for the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), said that parents had mixed views about the reopening of schools.

Some wanted it to be delayed out of concern about the rising number of infections, while some complained that online learning was not inconvenient for them because they had to go to work and had no time to look after their children, Dr Srirangsun said.

However, the CCSA will analyse all feedback in its quest to find proper measures, she said, adding that schools and educational institutes had been instructed to closely monitor the number of infections.

Dr Srirangsun suggested that if the spread of COVID-19 was to be curbed, it might be wise to only allow schools to reopen with staggered start dates.

“Schools cannot open at the same time. Schools in areas of high risk will have to start late, but there may be good news for those in green zones,” she said, referring to the surveillance green zone, which relates to infection-free provinces.

Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Anek Laothamatas said yesterday that if the situation improved as expected, restrictions on activities in universities and other agencies dealing with higher education were likely to be relaxed on 1st February.

Schools in the northern provinces of Chiang Mai and Loei were reopened yesterday after a long period of closure due to COVID-19.

Provincial governors in the two provinces have instructed all local schools to step up precautions against the virus.