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Health

Most schools reopen in Jordan amid COVID-19 spike

AMMAN (Reuters) - Nearly two million children returned to school in Jordan on Tuesday after a five month-absence, although authorities were forced to suspend teaching in some areas due to a spike in cases of COVID-19, officials said.

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Several schools for Palestinian refugees and state schools were closed in some neighborhoods of the capital, Amman, after cases doubled in the city of 3 million in recent days.

Authorities hesitated in the last fortnight over reopening schools on Sept. 1 after the country saw over 600 cases within just a week, its highest number of infections since March.

UNRWA, the main U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, said at least 115,000 pupils returned to its schools on Tuesday. Classes have been split with half the children attending school the other half learning at home in rotation.

Lessons in a refugee camp near the city of Madaba were suspended after a woman tested positive, officials said.

Although the kingdom has fared better than most Middle Eastern countries with only 2,034 cases and just 15 deaths, the recent uptick has brought fears Jordan could be on the verge of a new wave.

The spike has prompted the authorities this week to toughen a nationwide overnight curfew, close a main border crossing with Syria and postpone the opening of the country’s airport for regular commercial flights.

Although many were happy at schools reopening some parents remained anxious despite measures such as compulsory face masks and social distancing.

“I am very concerned to be honest, The decision (to return to school) with the rising number of cases in the past ten days, worries me,” said parent Mahmoud Farfora.

Financial concerns as a result of the pandemic have forced parents to withdraw at least 40,000 pupils from private schools that educate almost half the country’s school children, leaving teachers in the sector suffering redundancies and wage cuts.

Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Additional reporting by Reuters TV team in Amman.; Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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