- The classes will be divided into two groups, with an average of 11 students each, who will attend classes on different days.
- While schools will officially reopen on Friday, May 15 for preparatory work, lessons would not resume in earnest until the following Monday.
- Austria was the first European country to lift restrictions to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Austrian government announced Friday that schools in the country would re-open in May, and that students would return to schools in three stages. Classes would be split in two groups with each attending classes for half the week. The re-opening is scheduled to begin on May 4.
The first stage is for students who have to take exams at the end of high school or new year at technical and professional schools. In the second stage, starting on May 15, students of basic education (6 to 14 years old) return to school. The remaining students would return in the third stage, scheduled for May 29. The announcement was made at a press conference by the Austrian Minister of Education, Heinz Fassmann.
The classes will be divided into two groups, with an average of 11 students each, who will attend classes on different days. Students of all ages will be encouraged to wash their hands frequently, and those over the age of ten will have to wear a mask during breaks.
“If all goes well and infections do not increase further,” Fassmann said, “if the experiences of Denmark and Norway, which have decided to open schools early, are good, then the second phase of school openings will happen.” Fassmann told a news conference, “it is essentially all types of school for six-to-14-year-olds.”
While schools will officially reopen on Friday, May 15 for preparatory work, lessons would not resume in earnest until the following Monday, he added. The minister, however, warned that this plan could be suspended if an increase in coronavirus cases are detected in the country, or if there are problems in returning to schools in other European countries. Universities will maintain distance classes until the end of the school year.
Austria was the first European country to lift restrictions to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, with the reopening on 14 April, of small commercial establishments with less than 400 square meters. According to the plan announced then, larger commercial establishments will be allowed to open on May 1, but restaurants, hotels, or hairdressers will only be available from mid-May, with special care.
Major public events will remain banned until at least August 31, and there is no date set for the reopening of cinemas and theaters, swimming pools, sports venues, and gyms, which have been closed since the confinement was decreed on March 16. Museums, libraries, and open-air cinemas may reopen in mid-May, but state museums have decided not to reopen before July 1.
With 8.85 million inhabitants, Austria has so far registered 15,071 cases of COVID-19 with 530 deaths.
Having originated from China in December, the SARS-CoV-2 virus spread to 193 countries and territories worldwide and it has so far infected more than 2.8 million people. Roughly 196,000 others have lost their lives to the pandemic. Europe is the region of the world most affected , with more than 1,2 million cases and 117,000 deaths.