High school seniors return to classrooms in Vietnam capital

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — High school seniors returned to their classrooms in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, on Monday for the first time in more than six months as the city eases coronavirus restrictions.

Only 50% of normal school attendance will be allowed to reduce the risk of infections, so students will spend alternate days attending classes in person and online, an announcement by the capital city authority said.

“I’m very happy and excited to go back to school after such a long time. This is my last year at school and I cherish the time spent with my teachers and my friends at school, rather than through the computer screen at home,” said Han Binh Huy, a 12th grader at Tran Nhan Tong high school.

Only seniors were allowed to return because they are preparing for a critical national exam in June which determines whether they can enter universities.

“We are having a very serious exam ahead and being able to go to school will help me a lot. The teachers will be there with us directly so our learning will be more efficient,” said Huy’s classmate, Nguyen Duc Quang.

“I hope the pandemic will soon be under control and we will be fully vaccinated so we can focus on learning and preparing for the exam,” Quang said.

Students must wear masks and have their temperatures taken, and are not allowed to leave their classrooms until the school day ends.

The classes are also livestreamed for students who are under quarantine or wish to stay home.

“The school has prepared protective measures for the health safety of our students. Medical equipment, automatic thermal scanners and hand sanitizers are available in all classrooms. We also update the students and their parents regularly with new regulations and safety protocols,” said head of school Vu Thi Hau.

Hanoi is one of a few cities that are allowing a return to classrooms. Vietnam shut schools and other educational establishments in May when the virus surged, leading to the country’s worst outbreak.

Since then, the virus, fueled by the delta variant, has infected 1.3 million people and killed over 26,000.

The surge forced more than half the country into complete lockdown. Restrictions began to be eased in October when infection rates dropped and more people were vaccinated.

Hanoi, a city of 8 million, is now seeing a slight rise in COVID-19 cases due to the relaxed restrictions.

Last month, the city started to vaccinate young people between the ages of 12 and 17 in preparation for the reopening of schools. The students are scheduled to receive second shots in December.

Following a slow start, Vietnam is speeding up its vaccination program. According to the health ministry, 54 million of its 98 million population have been fully vaccinated. The country is planning to administer booster shots later this month for front-line workers and senior citizens.

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