In England, schools see dozens of coronavirus outbreaks as they reopen

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Schools in England saw 44 outbreaks of the novel coronavirus last week, public health data shows.

That’s up from 24 the week before that and 15 in the week before that.

The outbreak “coincides with wider school reopening … but also an expansion of testing and contact tracing,” Public Health England said in a release.

English schools started to reopen in early June for younger children, with some high school students returning last week. However, some schools in the worst-affected parts of the country have refused to open. In the northeast, 12 per cent of elementary schools opened as scheduled in early June, and eight per cent opened in the northwest.

At the moment, class sizes are limited to 15 students, but the government has promised a complete reopening, with full classrooms, in September.

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Provincial governments across Canada will reopen secondary education in some way in September, but it’s not clear what form that will take.

2:02 COVID-19: Quebec’s education announcement has some schools scrambling

COVID-19: Quebec’s education announcement has some schools scrambling

In Leicester, east of Birmingham, five schools closed this week after staff members tested positive. A case was found this week in a school in Bradford and more cases in three schools in Leeds.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure from some in his governing Conservative Party and businesses to start reopening the economy after spending billions to help to protect companies and workers from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

However, at the time schools reopened, a poll of British teachers by their union found that 85 per cent of teachers did not think it would be safe to return on June 1 and 92 per cent said that social distancing would not be possible to achieve or would present a major issue at schools.

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The British Medical Association said that the evidence regarding transmission via children was unclear and the risk of a second spike of infections too high.

“Until we have got case numbers much lower, we should not consider reopening schools,” Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said in the letter.

2:07 Manitoba school reopening plans

Manitoba school reopening plans

The U.K. has one of the world’s highest coronavirus death rates.

Scotland won’t reopen schools until August, officials there said earlier this month.

In Canada, schools will largely be closed until September. In Quebec, where schools outside Montreal opened in early May on a voluntary attendance basis, a minority of students have shown up, which has the advantage of making social distancing easier.

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When some Quebec schools reopened in May, a school in Gatineau had only one pupil show up on the first day.

Ontario, where schools remain closed, has told school boards to prepare for three scenarios for September: online learning, a full return to physical classrooms and a “hybrid model” in which students go to school in alternating shifts of 15 pupils. Manitoba has outlined a similar system.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said last week that the third option is the most likely.

— With files from Reuters

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