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AFP
September 18, 2020

Madrid region eyes new restrictions: New York City delays return to school again

World

AFP
September 18, 2020

NEW YORK: New York City postponed again on Thursday the return of in-classroom teaching for a large number of pupils, highlighting the difficulty of getting children back to school amid anxiety among teachers about coronavirus.

Face-to-face learning for all schoolchildren, one to three times a week, was due to start on Monday after already being delayed from September 10. But Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that only the youngest children and those with special needs will return on certain days next week.

Older pupils will have to wait until September 29 or October 1. Until then they will continue with online classes that started for many this week. De Blasio said the decision was taken after two teaching unions told him they had "real concerns" about elements that need to be addressed to return "safely."

The United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators have argued recently that schools are not ready to welcome kids into classrooms. They say a lack of teachers is particularly concerning.

New York City is the largest school district in the United States with 1.1 million students. It is the only major city in the United States to commit to offering in-person classes this fall. Many cities, such as Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Miami, opted instead for the virtual model.

In the US -- the country worst hit by the pandemic in absolute terms, with more than 197,000 deaths and more than six million documented infections -- the issue of reopening schools was politicized ahead of the November elections.

Meanwhile, once again at the centre of a major coronavirus outbreak, the Madrid region admitted on Thursday it was overwhelmed, calling for "decisive" central government action on the eve of unveiling fresh restrictions.

In a country where public health services are left in the hands of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, senior official Ignacio Aguado said it was "necessary and urgent that the Spanish government get involved, and that means decisively, in controlling the pandemic".

In a related development, more than two million people in northeast England face new restrictions because of a surge in coronavirus cases, the government announced on Thursday, as it battled to contain a potential second wave of infection.

Tighter regulations on socialising are due to come into force from Friday in Northumberland, North and South Tyneside, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Gateshead, and County Durham. Residents will be banned from socialising in homes or gardens with people from outside their household, while food and drink venues will be restricted to table service only.

Pubs and bars will have to shut early by 10:00 pm (2100 GMT). "We do not take these decisions lightly," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told parliament, acknowledging they would have a "real impact on families, on businesses and on communities".