Iran begins new school year amid virus concerns

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Students and their parents wearing protective face masks to help prevent spread of the coronavirus listen to their national anthem during the opening ceremony of the Hashtroudi school in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. Iran on Saturday opened the new school year after nearly seven months of closure as many expressed concern over a possible increase in infections of the Covid-19. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran on Saturday opened the new school year after nearly seven months of closure.

In a video conference, President Hassan Rouhani said the education of 15 million students is as important as the health system.

“Education will not be closed in our country even under the worst situation,” he said, urging authorities to implement health measures in schools to the level of those in military garrisons.

The reopening of schools came as many expressed concern over a possible increase in infections, including medical professionals.

“The national COVID-19 task force should defend lives of millions of students,” said Abbas Aghazadeh, a member of the board of the medical council. “Prevent physical reopening of all schools across the country.”

Iran has so far used distance learning via internet apps and TV programs. Authorities say the system will continue for undergraduate university students.

Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has so far passed 22,000 out of 382,772 confirmed cases. The country has had the first and worst outbreak in the region.

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