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Danish schools begin reopening after month-long closure

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Copenhagen (AFP)

Denmark began reopening schools on Wednesday after a month-long closure over the novel coronavirus, becoming the first country in Europe to do so.

Nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools were reopening, according to an AFP correspondent, after they were closed on March 12 in an effort to curb the COVID-19 epidemic.

However classes are only resuming in about half of Denmark's municipalities and in about 35 percent of Copenhagen's schools, as other have requested more time to adjust to health protocols still in place.

All are expected to reopen by April 20.

In early April the country's centre-left government announced that schools would be reopened "on the condition that everyone keeps their distance and washes their hands."

Schools are required to ensure that a distance of two metres (about six feet) is maintained between desks in classrooms and recesses must be organised for small groups.

To adhere to guidelines, many schools favour outdoor classes, presenting a challenge for schools in urban areas.

Some parents have opposed the reopening of schools, citing health concerns. A petition dubbed "My child is not a guinea pig" has garnered some 18,000 signatures.

Henrik Wilhelmsen, principal of a school in the Norrebro district said that they "expect quite a lot of children to be kept at home."

Middle and high school students, will continue remote classes and are only expected to return to classrooms on May 10.

As of Tuesday, Denmark had 6,691 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 299 deaths.

The country has banned gatherings of more than 10 people and bars, restaurants, hairdressers, shopping malls and clubs have been closed.

Before Denmark, Austria was the first European country to unveil its roadmap for a return to a "new normal".

On Tuesday, it allowed small non-food shops to open up, while maintaining social distancing rules and requiring masks to be worn in shops and on public transport.

Austria plans to keep schools, cafes and restaurants closed until at least mid-May.

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