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PM Orban says wearing protective mask mandatory where in-person instruction resumes

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Ludovic Orban

Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said on Wednesday that wearing a protective mask will be mandatory in schools where in-person classes resume, and that all schools must be provided with disinfectants.

"The start of the school year involves a series of ongoing steps taken in each direction of action that we have established. We have set up an inter-ministerial committee that prepares the opening of the school year. (...) It is clear that each way of opening the school requires specific measures. Where schools resume normally the teaching staff, the students and the ancillary staff will have to wear masks. When possible, physical separation should be secured by acrylic glass sheets, which is to reduce physical contact. Also, all schools must be prepared with everything that means disinfectants, with disinfectants available to teachers and students alike," Orban told a joint plenary sitting of Parliament.

The prime minister reiterated that the school year will start on September 14 and that it must be done by taking into account the epidemiological situation.

"That is why we have decided to open schools differently, based on the decisions taken in the first phase by the boards of directors, the school inspectorates, the public health directorates and the emergency management committees," Orban said, pointing to three scenarios in which the schools will be opened - green, yellow and red - depending on the number of infections in the last 14 days - 1, between 1 and 3 and over 3.

He explained that the scenarios will allow schools to reopen for in-person instruction, alternative instruction, and where the epidemiological situation indicates a high epidemiological risk, classes will be provided remotely.

The prime minister also said that important resources have been allocated to increase the capacity to organise remote instruction.

He pointed out that, according to the assessment of the Ministry of Education, approximately 20% of schools are not connected to the Internet and indicated that together with the National Communication Agency ANCOM, mobile operators and local governments solutions will be found to ensure the Internet connection of all schools.

In addition, he pointed out that there will be free access to e-learning platforms for each school, with Google and Microsoft providing such solutions. Orban mentioned that the government has allocated from the reserve fund the money needed to purchase 250,000 tablets, showing that the winners of the auction will be known next week.

He specified that the government has made available from European funds 125 million euros for the settlement of expenses made by the local government for the purchase of additional laptops - 200,000 - and of other categories of expenses, for the purchase of healthcare protection, disinfectants and for the purchase of sanitary tanks.

He also pointed out that activities are organised to increase the teaching of online instruction skills.

He indicated that World Bank funds are used for the ongoing purchase of 74,000 laptops and webcams for 1,164 schools.

"We clearly need the co-operation of both local administrations and school managers, the involvement of teachers and parents in these efforts to ensure the best conditions for the start of the school year, in order to be able to ensure the right to education for every child in Romania," added Orban.

On Wednesday, Orban unveiled in Parliament a report on measures taken and envisaged by the government to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, organise the local elections and opening schools.

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