Romania reopens schools under strict rules as coronavirus cases rise

BUCHAREST, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Romania reopened schools for 2.8 million children on Monday after a six-month closure to fight the coronavirus outbreak, ordering pupils to wear face masks as infections rise.

With 104,000 cases, and new infections jumping above 1,000 a day since July, millions of teachers, students and parents face a tough challenge to adapt after months of online teaching at home.

The spike has been among Europe’s fastest, together with Spain, France, Malta and Croatia, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

More than 17,000 schools reopened their gates.

President Klaus Iohannis imposed a strict lockdown across the country of 20 million in March and while restrictions have been eased, masks have been compulsory in public transport and indoor public spaces since May 15.

Iohannis urged students “to become super-heroes who wear the mask, wash hands and listen to their teachers, protect parents and grandparents, the most exposed to the danger of getting sick.”

“I’ll wash my hands with disinfectant, I feel fine with the mask ... we’ll be wearing it for four hours,” said 6-year-old Maria Militaru before her first day at a school near Bucharest’s East Railway station.

“We hope this will be okay,” said her mother. She voiced concern about whether authorities would return to online schooling: “We could lose our jobs.”

School sports involving physical contact, such as soccer and basketball, are banned.

Government data showed there were 4,503 new cases recorded since Friday, taking the overall total to 104,187 cases, with 4,185 deaths.

Earlier on Monday, some students protested outside the Education Ministry, raising inflatable pink pigs to protest against the authorities’ failure to meet a pledge to distribute about 250,000 tablet computers needed for online classes. (Editing by Janet Lawrence)