World

Indonesian teachers angry as more schools reopen

Government expands reopening policy even as country chalks up daily increases in infections

JAKARTA: Indonesia's decision to allow more schools to reopen has drawn strong criticism from paediatricians and teachers who have been calling for schools to stay focused on distance learning to prevent children from contracting the coronavirus.

Despite daily increases of infections, the government expanded on Friday a reopening policy for schools in Covid-19 yellow zones, or moderate-risk areas.

The decision comes only a month after schools in green zones, or low-risk areas, were given the green light to reopen.

Indonesia reported 1,693 new cases yesterday, bringing the country's tally to 128,776.

There were 59 deaths, taking the total to 5,824, the highest Covid-19 death toll in South-east Asia.

The Federation of Indonesian Teachers Associations (FSGI) said the change risked creating new infection clusters at schools.

The group has received reports of at least 180 teachers and students from across the nation who have tested positive for the virus.

"The right to live and the right for students, teachers and parents to be healthy are still the most important things," FSGI deputy secretary-general Satriwan Salim said.

"Children are also entitled to the right to education, but we have to remember that children who can get an education are children who are healthy and alive. Distance learning is the best option we have right now."

VACCINE

Meanwhile, Indonesia yesterday launched human trials of a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine with some 1,600 volunteers slated to take part in the six-month study.

The vaccine candidate, produced by Sinovac Biotech, is among just a few in the world to enter phase three clinical trials, or large-scale testing on humans - the last step before regulatory approval.

The governor of Indonesia's most populous province, West Java, was among the 1,620 volunteers slated to take part in clinical testing, which is scheduled to wrap up in February.

Another high-profile vaccine volunteer is Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

He lauded Russia's efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine and is willing to personally participate in trials, as he welcomed a supply offer from Moscow that he expects will be free of charge.

"I will tell President (Vladimir) Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating Covid19, and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Mr Duterte said .

Russia yesterday became the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval for a Covid-19 vaccine, paving the way for mass domestic inoculation even as the final stage of clinical trials continue.

Russia has offered to supply or co-manufacture the vaccine in the Philippines, which said it was ready to work with Moscow on trials, supply and production.

The Philippines yesterday reported 2,987 cases, taking its tally to 139,538, the highest in South-east Asia.

There were 19 deaths, bringing the toll to 2,312.

Malaysia recorded nine new cases yesterday, bringing infections in the country to 9,103. The death toll remains at 125. - JAKARTA POST/ANN, REUTERS, AFP, THE STAR

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