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Kids return to school in Norway

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Oslo (AFP)

Norway, which says it has the new coronavirus epidemic under control, reopened primary schools to the youngest students on Monday, in another step toward a gradual normalisation, though some parents expressed concern.

One week after nursery schools, pupils aged six to 10 started returning to their school desks after six weeks of remote learning from home in the Nordic country.

Classes were however reduced to a maximum of 15 students.

At the Levre school in the residential suburb of Baerum outside Oslo, children streamed back to school in the rain.

Outside the building, flowers painted on the ground marked the social distancing guidelines to be respected, one of several playful reminders of the threat posed by the illness.

Tilde, 7, was bursting with impatience to reconnect with her friends and teachers at 9.00 am. (0700 GMT).

"She was ready at 6 o'clock this morning, three hours early. She was so excited to go back. No alarm clock, we didn't need that," her mother Karine Rabbe told AFP.

Signs hung at the entrance welcomed the students back to school.

"Nice to have you back," they read. One poster featured a rainbow with the text "Everything will be fine" in Norwegian.

But not everyone was at ease with the return to school.

On Facebook, a group called "My child should not be a guinea pig for COVID-19" has garnered almost 30,000 members.

"If it were up to me entirely, I would probably wait a couple of more weeks because I don't think we have all the information we need at this point," Rabbe said.

The school's principal, Kathrine Wilsher Lohre, took a reassuring approach.

"There is anxiety in society everywhere. That's why information is very important," she told AFP.

"Under the circumstances, it's as safe as it can be."

Norway has progressively begun lifting restrictions imposed on March 12 to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Hair salons and dermatologists have also been also authorised to resume business.

By Sunday, Norway, a country of 5.4 million people, had reported 7,505 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 193 deaths, while the curve of hospitalised cases has dropped significantly in recent weeks.

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