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EghtesadOnline: The new school year opened on Saturday in Iran following a nearly seven-month gap, as families expressed concerns over the safety of their children amid the coronavirus pandemic.

President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday morning gave an online speech marking the physical return of students to schools across the country, pointing out that education will continue “even under the harshest of circumstances”, his website reported.

“School is an environment. We cannot bring that environment to homes with applications [software]; the right path for education has been chosen,” the president said.

During the videoconference, Rouhani urged teachers to make every effort to exercise a more effective discipline among students.

“This year, teachers should educate, keep schools safe, preserve the health of children and improve learning skills,” he said, stressing that teachers this year bear a heavier responsibility and should help prevent the spread of coronavirus infections in classrooms.

The president added, “It is the duty of our dear teachers to tackle the coronavirus. Teachers and principals shoulder the heaviest responsibility and pupils and families should, of course, cooperate.”

While Iran had earlier announced schools in provinces on Covid-19 red alert will prioritize e-learning, the Education Ministry reversed its decision two days before the start of the new school year and called for the physical return of all students regardless of a region’s pandemic status, sparking fears over a coronavirus resurgence as the deadly outbreak looms over some 15 million students in 116,000 schools throughout the country.

The new decision was announced on the sidelines of an event marking the launch of the latest version of the Shad application, a platform used during the last semester to facilitate distance learning.

Students have been instructed to follow protocols devised by the Health Ministry. Crowded schools will require the presence of students on alternate days to curb the chances of virus transmission.


Only Two ‘White’ Provinces

According to the Health Ministry’s daily updates on the infectious disease, only two of Iran’s 31 provinces are “white”, or have recorded low numbers of confirmed cases of the virus.

The remaining 29 provinces are either in an alarming state or on red alert. According to the health authority, there are no green or coronavirus-free zones in the country.

“Over 1,890 tested positive for Covid-19 within a 24-hour period,” the spokeswoman for the Health Ministry, Sima Sadat Lari, was quoted as saying by ISNA on Saturday.

The newly identified cases took the national total to 384,666, the spokeswoman said. 

Lari added, “Over the past 24 hours, 110 patients lost their lives, bringing the death toll to 22,154.”

The reopening of schools, summer travels, large-scale mourning ceremonies and the influenza season are expected to trigger a third wave in the coming weeks.

Iran has so far carried out 3.35 million coronavirus tests to detect infections. More than 332,000 have recovered from the respiratory illness and 3,700 are in critical condition.

Over 26.7 million cases of Covid-19 and 880,000 fatalities were reported worldwide as of Saturday evening. 


School Iran coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic