Cuba reopens schools amid COVID-19 pandemic
By Yosley Carrero

HAVANA, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Mia Sierra, a Cuban primary school student from Havana's neighboring province Mayabeque, returned to school on Tuesday, following social distancing and hygiene protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.


View of empty streets in Havana, on September 1, 2020, during a curfew imposed to contain the resurgence of Covid-19. (File photo: AFP)

More than 1.7 million students from across the country except Havana have resumed in-person classes for the first time since March. Meanwhile, the government has adopted new measures to contain a second outbreak of the deadly virus.

In the weeks before the reopening of schools, Mia was taught by her family members to keep sanitized while staying outside.

For the nine-year-old girl who lives in the rural town of San Nicolas de Bari, attending school once again marks the end of her "longest holidays ever" and the start of "a new period hiding my face behind a mask."

"I do not like face masks, but it is important to wear them to stay healthy," she said, "I like to spend time at school."

Students and teachers are provided with sodium hypochlorite solution to help them keep sanitized while the use of face masks is compulsory.

Nationwide, secondary school students will attend classes on alternate days while for the rest in Havana and six municipalities currently under lockdown, lessons will be broadcasted on TV.

Cuban authorities said that major efforts have been made to guarantee water supply and improve hygiene conditions at schools.

But the safe return of children and adolescents to schools requires all family members to share responsibilities ranging from making face masks to monitoring handwashing and disinfecting procedures once students come back home.

The girl's aunt, Zadys Sierra, 48, told Xinhua that containing local transmission of COVID-19 could help pupils stay safe in their communities and successfully end the 2019-2020 academic year.

"Children and adolescents are getting out of their bubble," she said, "They are lucky to come back to classrooms."

By contrast, the girl's cousin, Laura Viera, who studies at Havana's Institute of Industrial Design, has been required to stay home longer as classes in the country's capital remain canceled due to a spike of new COVID-19 infections over the past few weeks.

"Strict fulfillment of sanitary measures at student dorms is a critical point," said the 20-year-old university student, "I am missing classrooms a lot, but understand it is not the moment to return to the big city."

Universities in most of the country's provinces, except Havana, Pinar del Rio, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Matanzas and Villa Clara, have resumed in-person classes.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel noted the importance of following health and safety precautions at schools and universities as the new academic year started.

"Not even a chance could be given to (COVID-19) contagion in educational institutions. A school will be closed immediately wherever hygiene and sanitary measures are broken," he said during a governmental meeting.