Konradus Epa, Jakarta – The Indonesian government has warned schools to raise health protocol standards or risk closure again following thousands of reported Covid-19 infections since students began returning to classrooms in recent weeks.
At least 15,000 students and 7,000 teachers at around 1,500 schools have been infected since schools began reopening at the start of September after having been shut for 18 months.
About 42 percent of more than 278,000 schools have reopened so far since strict social restrictions were eased.
However, the recent surge in cases prompted Education, Research and Technology Minister Nadiem Makarim to issue schools with a warning.
"We will not hesitate to close schools if students are transmitting the virus," he said.
He said the government is vaccinating students from 12 to 17 years old but schools still had the responsibility to try and prevent the virus spreading. This meant following social distancing rules and conducting testing.
We want to see schools open because students faced many difficulties studying at home
Franciscan Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, backed the minister's warning.
"Implementing and following health protocols are a moral obligation," Father Mbula told UCA News.
"While it is important that all students, teachers and parents should be vaccinated, they still need to practice social distancing and other safeguards," he said, adding, that Catholic schools were strictly enforcing such rules to protect their students.
Philip Situmorang, spokesman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said that although schools needed to reopen after 18 months of closure, safety had to take priority.
"We want to see schools open because students faced many difficulties studying at home," he told UCA News.
However, if they can't follow rules on social distancing, class sizes and the wearing of masks, they should remain closed, he said.