Schools reopen as Singapore eases lockdown restrictions

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SINGAPORE (Reuters) – With temperatures checked, masks fitted, and hand sanitizers at the ready, many Singapore children returned to school on Tuesday after a novel coronavirus lockdown of nearly two months.
Across the island, the hum of the morning rush hour resumed while staff at schools urged students to maintain a safe distance as they lined up to return to class.
With one of the highest coronavirus tallies in Asia, Singapore has said it will ease restrictions gradually, with the registry of marriages and some businesses, including pet salons, also reopening on Tuesday.
“You have to restart your normal life at some point,” said Harsha Yavagal, who was sending his boys aged five and 12 back to school.
“Schools are taking all possible measures to cope with the virus,” he said.
Studies in some European countries have shown reopening schools has not led to a rise in coronavirus infections, while other studies have shown fewer cases of the disease among children compared with adults.
But Singapore is not taking any chances.
At one secondary school, Reuters observed the precision of the “new normal” morning routine.
After a bell, students sang the national anthem through face masks that are required by law. The teacher then asked everyone in the class to put thermometers in their mouths and he went desk-to-desk noting temperatures.
The students then cleaned their thermometers with an alcohol wipe and, one-by-one, dropped the wipes in a bin.
Recesses will be staggered and children will have to sit apart at the canteen, the teacher said, then asked students to respond to an online poll via their smartphones about how they felt about returning to school.
The results appeared on a screen behind him: more than half said they were happy with a further third “very happy”.
Singapore has recorded more than 35,000 coronavirus cases and 24 deaths. Most cases have been among migrant workers living in dormitories.
(Reporting by Anshuman Daga and Edgar Su, Writing by John Geddie; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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