BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai schools are holding rehearsals to prepare students for classes in the coronavirus era, giving lessons in hygiene and social distancing to children as young as three ahead of next week’s return.
Schools across Thailand have been modifying classrooms, dining halls and play areas to prepare for a phased return of students, in another step towards normalcy as the country nears one month without a domestic transmission.
Bangkok’s Wichutit School has since last week been putting students through a day of drills in hand-washing, playground etiquette and forming orderly lines one metre apart.
On Tuesday, the school of more than 1,600 students invited children age 3 and 4 to put on masks and face shields for mock lessons in classrooms with barriers installed on desks.
They queued for temperature checks and wash basins and were introduced to hand-cleaning techniques and a new lunchtime routine of eating behinds screens.
“This is going to be something new for the kids and they’re excited. They’ve been cooperative because parents also practise the same new normal at home,” said the school’s director, Pornnicha Chatapun.
“It’s normal life for them now, and they won’t feel weird about it.”
Thailand’s return to school is sooner than much of Southeast Asia, owing to its low infection numbers. Of its 3,156 cases, only 58 have died and 3,023 patients have recovered.
That compares to nearly 48,000 cases in Indonesia and close to 32,000 in the Philippines, whose president has vowed to keep schools shut until a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
Pareeyaporn Deesuer, whose son attends the Wichutit school, said she was reassured by its preparations.
“I was kind of really worried, but once they are back at school there’s a sense of relief because of the school’s preventive measures,” she said.
(Reporting by Artorn Pookasook; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Giles Elgood)