Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Many primary and secondary schools forced to close for months in Catholic-majority Timor-Leste's worst-hit Covid-19 areas will be allowed to reopen next week, the government says.
The schools in the capital Dili and the second-largest city, Baucau, which were closed in March, will begin reopening on July 19, Education Youth and Sports Minister Armindo Maia told reporters on July 15.
"Covid-19 cases have declined in recent weeks, while more and more teachers and staff have been vaccinated," he said.
However, only schools where over 70 percent of teachers and staff have been vaccinated can reopen, he said.
Some 1,498 of 3,157 teachers and school staff in Dili have been fully vaccinated, while 669 out of 1,140 teachers in Baucau have had their jabs.
The number of Covid-19 infections in Timor-Leste is continuing to decline following a surge in cases in recent months. New daily cases have been below 50 in the last two weeks with 36 being recorded on July 15.
The figures show a significant drop on the 200 new cases being recorded daily in May.
Maia said teachers and students are still required to continue following health protocols, including washing hands regularly, physical distancing and wearing face masks.
He said his ministry and local authorities would ensure compliance with the regulations. "Action will be taken if they don't," he said.
Father Angelo Salshina, chairman of Dili Archdiocese's Covid-19 pastoral support team, said the government needs to back up this move by upping its vaccination drive.
"All teachers and staff must be vaccinated and, if possible, the students," he told UCA News.
Since the start of the pandemic, Timor-Leste has recorded a total of 9,997 cases with 25 deaths.
So far 241,906 people out of a population of 1.3 million have received their first vaccination and about 46,302 have received their second.