South Africa plans to shutter schools for a second time as the number of Covid-19 cases surges, according to two people familiar with the matter.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa may announce the decision in a televised addressed at 8 p.m. in Pretoria on Thursday, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public yet.
The closing of schools will be scheduled to coincide with an already planned break in early August, to reduce the impact of the shutdown on the academic year, the people said. Proposals put to the president include shuttering campuses for three weeks or longer, they said.
The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in South Africa doubled over the past 17 days to surpass 400,000. More than 13,000 cases were reported for a second consecutive day on Thursday, bringing the cumulative total to 408,052 — the world’s fifth-highest. The government has forecast that the country is expected to reach its peak-infection rate in the coming weeks.
All schools were closed in March when the government introduced one of the world’s strictest lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus. Since they re-opened on June 1, teachers’ labor unions and some members of the public have urged the government to close them again.
While South Africa’s privately funded schools are well-resourced, there has been a concern around space in classrooms for physical distancing, and even water and sanitation in some of the nation’s public schools.