Indonesian teachers warn of new virus clusters as schools reopen


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JAKARTA — Indonesia’s move to reopen schools in some areas risks creating new clusters of coronavirus cases, with at least 180 students and teachers infected since a new academic year started in July, a teachers’ federation said on Thursday.

The world’s fourth-most populous country has allowed schools to reopen with limited capacity in “yellow” and “green” zones, with fewer reported cases and covering 43% of the student population, according to government data.

Parents can opt not to send their children to schools in these areas and extracurricular activities are not allowed.

Heru Purnomo, the secretary general of The Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI), said distance learning was still preferable.

“We’ve always sounded out our worries that schools could become new clusters,” Purnomo said. “Distance learning, be it offline or online, is safer than face-to-face lessons.”

Wiku Adisasmito, a spokesman at Indonesia’s COVID-19 task force, told reporters on Thursday that new clusters would not break out at schools if all health protocols were adhered to.

Explaining the policy of limited reopening, education minister Nadiem Makarim told a streamed talkshow on Wednesday that almost 90 percent of children live in areas where “most of the students find it extremely difficult to do any type of technology-based distance learning.”

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