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Health News

As coronavirus surges, Spain's back-to-school plans under fire

MADRID (Reuters) - With coronavirus cases surging and less than two weeks of the school holidays left, parents, teachers and opposition politicians in Spain are angry at the government’s plans for reopening classrooms.

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Latest government data showed daily infections peaked at 7,609 on Friday - their highest since late March - before dropping to 3,349 on Thursday. However, the fall may not represent a trend as similar declines have been followed by new peaks in recent weeks.

“Don’t be confused: things are not going well,” health emergency chief Fernando Simon told reporters.

Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative opposition People’s Party, accused Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s leftist government of keeping the country guessing on the reopening of schools.

“Not a single Spanish family knows what will happen to their children when the school year starts,” he said. “We cannot let a whole generation of children have their education held back because of a lack of planning.”

Spain’s regions are in charge of regulating the return to school, though the central government will present national guidelines next week.

In Madrid, where more than 1,000 new cases were reported on Thursday, regional authorities did not rule out delaying face-to-face classes, putting a strain on working families.

“We have to be a bit careful about the date of reopening the schools,” deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero told Reuters. “Perhaps, due to the level of positives, we will have to rethink about if we open by ages.”

Still, deputy regional leader Ignacio Aguado said he was in favour of bringing children back to the classroom.

Complaining of a lack of resources and safety measures, teachers’ unions in Madrid have called a series of strikes for the first weeks of September.

With more than 370,000 cases, Spain has the most infections in western Europe. It has reimposed some restrictions since a strict lockdown ended in late June.

Nearly 29,000 have died. The tally of about 20 daily deaths so far in August is well below the more than 800 a day in late March, but has risen since the end of the lockdown when it was in low single digits.

Reporting by Michael Gore, Silvio Castellanos, Clara-Laeila Laudette, Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Giles Elgood

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