DEN BOSCH, Netherlands — At the Springplank school in the Dutch city of Den Bosch, staff have installed plastic shields around students’ desks and disinfectant gel dispensers at the doorways as part of preparations to reopen amid the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
New infections in the Netherlands have been declining for weeks, and the government on Wednesday announced a schedule to relax some of its lockdown measures, with elementary schools to reopen on May 11.
“Our teachers are not worried,” said Rascha van der Sluijs, the school’s technical coordinator.
“We have flexible screens that we bought so we can protect our teachers if students are coughing.”
Though schools have been closed since March 14, many including the Springplank have remained open with skeleton staff for a handful of students whose parents work in essential sectors such as healthcare. Most have been taking classes online.
Each district is setting its own policies for reopening, with many planning to accept students only on alternate days. At some schools, the teachers will wear medical masks.
As of Friday, there have been 42,093 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Netherlands, with 5,359 deaths, according to data from the National Institute for Health. Of those, 1.3 percent of infections and one death were registered among people under 20 years old.
High schools are not due to open until June.
At the Springplank, younger students will use one entrance and older students a different one. Parents will have to drop their children at the gate.
“What we’re worried about is the adults,” Van der Sluijs said.
Taiwan says 240,000 COVID-19 Moderna doses to arrive on Friday
A further 240,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses from Moderna Inc will arrive in Taiwan on Friday afternoon, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen said, boosting the island’s slow vaccination programme.
Only around 5% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have received at least one shot so far, with orders delayed by global shortages as the island deals with a spike in domestic infections.
Taiwan has already received and has started administering 150,000 Moderna shots, and has around 5 million on order.
Half of Taiwan’s 20 million dose order is with AstraZeneca Plc which have been slow to arrive, but this month the island received an additional 1.24 million AstraZeneca doses donated by Japan.
Global COVID-19 death toll exceeds 4 million
Coronavirus-related deaths worldwide passed a grim milestone of 4 million on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, as many countries struggle to procure enough vaccines to inoculate their populations.
While the number of new cases and deaths have abated in countries like the United States and Britain, several nations have vaccine shortages as the Delta variant becomes the dominant strain around the world.
It took over a year for the COVID-19 death toll to hit 2 million, while the next 2 million were recorded in just 166 days, according to a Reuters analysis.
The top five countries by total number of deaths – the United States, Brazil, India, Russia and Mexico – represent about 50% of all deaths in the world, while Peru, Hungary, Bosnia, the Czech Republic and Gibraltar have the highest death rates when adjusted for population.
Countries in Latin America are facing their worst outbreak since March, with 43 of every 100 infections in the world being reported in the region, according to a Reuters analysis. The top nine countries reporting the most deaths per capita over the last week were all in Latin America.
Hospitals in Bolivia, Chile and Uruguay are largely seeing COVID-19 patients between the ages of 25 and 40 as the trend toward younger patients continued. In Brazil’s Sao Paulo, 80% of intensive care units (ICU) occupants are COVID-19 patients.
Soaring deaths are straining the operating capacity of crematoriums in developing nations and gravediggers in several countries have been forced to expand cemeteries with row after row of new tombs.
India and Brazil are the countries reporting the most deaths each day on a seven-day average and are still troubled with cremation woes and lack of burial space. India accounts for one in every three deaths reported worldwide each day, according to a Reuters analysis.
Many health experts believe that official death toll to be undercounted globally, with the World Health Organization (WHO) last month estimating fatalities to be much higher.
Last week, the Indian state of Bihar raised its COVID-19 death toll sharply higher after the discovery of thousands of unreported cases, lending weight to concerns that India’s overall death tally is significantly more than the official figure.
As poorer nations struggle to inoculate their populations due to vaccine shortages, wealthier countries have been urged to donate more to control the pandemic.
“The primary issue in the Americas is vaccine access, not vaccine acceptance,” Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa Etienne said Wednesday, urging donor countries to send shots as soon as possible.
The Group of Seven (G7) rich nations had pledged to provide 1 billion COVID-19 vaccinations to help poorer countries vaccinate their populations.
China reports 23 new COVID-19 cases versus 19 the day before
China reported 23 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the mainland for June 17, up from 19 infections a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Friday.
Of the new cases, one was a local infection in southern Guangdong province, while the rest were imported cases, the National Health Commission said.
The number of new asymptomatic infections slightly rose to 25 from 24 a day earlier.
China does not classify them as confirmed cases.
The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in mainland China stood at 91,534 by the end of June 17, with the death toll unchanged at 4,636.
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