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Germany Struggles to Set COVID-19 Rules as Schools Reopen

By VOA News August 09, 2020

German students go back to school Monday even as federal and state leaders are still trying to figure out how to keep half a million children, their teachers, and other staffers safe from the coronavirus.

"There are conflicting priorities, health protection on the one hand, which is very important to us, and on the other hand that we want to ensure the right to education of every single child," German education minister Sandra Scheeres said.

She said keeping students 1.5 meters apart while inside a school is sometimes impossible.

Scheeres recommends that schools divide pupils into groups and keep them separate. If anyone were to test positive for the coronavirus, only that person and their cluster would need to be quarantined instead of everyone.

The central government will require students and teachers to wear masks in the hallways but will not require them in classroom instruction or on playgrounds.

Many other countries are also struggling to decide how and when to reopen schools.

President Donald Trump has been pushing for all U.S. schools to reopen for in-person learning. But many states say they aren't ready and plan to begin the school year at the end of this month the same way they ended the old one in June – using virtual classrooms.

Last week a photograph of a crowded hallway in a Georgia school showed only a few students wearing masks. The school was closed and students were sent home for online classes after nine students tested positive for the coronavirus.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned last week of a possible "generational catastrophe" in education because of shuttered schools. He urged countries to make reopening schools a top priority once the coronavirus crisis subsides.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in an article in the Daily Mail newspaper that the country has a moral duty to reopen schools.

He said restarting schools is a national priority and a social and economic necessity.

Johnson asserted that British schools can operate safely and has previously said schools would be the last places to close if there is another COVID-19 shutdown.

The British school year is set to start in early September.

Face masks must be worn outside in most places in France starting Monday, and masks are also required in nearly every indoor setting in Britain and Scotland.

Australia recorded 404 new cases Sunday, but New Zealand is reporting its 100th straight day with no new cases of COVID-19 spread by co-called community transmission, when there is no clear source.

Finally, for someone who believes an N95 mask just won't do, there's a $1.5 million white-gold-and-diamond-encrusted COVID-19 face mask.

Israel's Yvel jewelry company says it received a request for the special made-to-order mask from an unidentified Chinese businessman living in the United States.

"Money maybe doesn't buy everything, but if it can buy a very expensive COVID-19 mask and the guy wants to wear it and walk around and get the attention, he should be happy with that," designer Isaac Levy said.

"I am happy that this mask gave us enough work for our employees to be able to provide their jobs in very challenging times like these times right now," he said.

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