Cambodia reopens schools as community Covid-19 outbreak is over; safe campaign steps launched

A student walks through a disinfectant-sprayer at the Bak Touk High School in Phnom Penh. Schools in Cambodia reopened on Monday after closure due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. - Xinhua

PHNOM PENH, Jan. 11 (Xinhua): Cambodia reopened public schools across the kingdom on Monday after the first community outbreak of Covid-19 was over late last year.

In a message to mark the new academic years 2020-2021, Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen urged all schools to strictly adhere to the safety measures set by the Ministry of Health.

He said both teachers and students must wear face masks, have their temperature checked, wash hands frequently and keep a social distance of 1.5 meters from each other.

"The Ministry (of Education), relevant institutions, local authorities and people must closely cooperate with the Ministry of Health to ensure health safety and education on hygiene, and to prevent the COVID-19 from spreading to the academic institutions," Hun Sen said.

At the Bak Touk High School in capital Phnom Penh, students wearing face masks queued for temperature checks and hand washing with alcohol before being allowed to enter their classrooms.

Khat Sarong, the school's deputy principal, said the school has properly followed the health measures introduced by the Ministry of Health.

"We have prepared all safety measures including hand washing facilities, face mask wearing and social distancing," he told Xinhua. "We have routinely advised them on these health measures."

Wearing a face mask properly, Sea Manita, a ninth grade student said she was very happy to go back to school after months of closure due to Covid-19.

"I feel so happy to return to school because studying with teachers in class is much better than learning online," she told Xinhua. "I suggest that all students wear face masks and wash hands with alcohol before entering the school."

Private schools reopened last week.

Cambodia has seen success in controlling the spread of Covid-19. The South-East Asian country has reported a total of 392 confirmed cases to date, with zero deaths and 374 recoveries, according to the Ministry of Health

The country, supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), on Monday also launched a national back to school campaign to encourage children to return to classrooms while practicing safe behavior to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

As the new school year starts, and with Covid-19 still a global challenge, this campaign will be crucial in making school environments as safe as possible, said a joint press statement.

The campaign also aims to reach those families and children whose education has been most disrupted by the pandemic, encouraging them to prioritize learning despite the challenges, the statement said.

The campaign is themed "Act Now" and will reinforce proven safe behaviors around Covid-19, as well as other cross cutting messages to make schools safe, healthy and a flourishing environment for children.

These messages are captured in creative videos, posters, radio spots, and text messages that will be broadcast across the country, it said, adding that some materials, such as flyers and games, will be printed for children to take home, ensuring the messages engage families and communities in fun and playful ways.

In addition, an illustrated booklet for teachers and school principals featuring safety guidelines, checklists and tips has already been produced and delivered to all 16,500 schools so that teachers can start the new school year fully prepared.

"Our priority throughout the pandemic has been keeping children safe, while also doing all possible to maintain their education," Hang Chuon Naron, minister of education, youth and sports, said in the statement.

"We're proud of the Cambodian government's efforts in keeping infections amongst the lowest in the world, while also ensuring distance learning was available for all students," he said. - Xinhua
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