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Morocco holds belated back-to-school day as virus recedes

Morocco holds belated back-to-school day as virus recedes
Millions of Moroccan students have returned to school for in-person classes after a prolonged summer vacation

Millions of Moroccan students returned to school on Friday for in-person classes after a prolonged summer vacation.

The government had planned to reopen schools back in September but postponed the start date because of virus fears.

The North African kingdom has the continent’s highest vaccination rate and virus infections are now receding. The school reopening came a month after the government kicked off an ambitious vaccination campaign for children aged 12 to 17, becoming one of the first African countries to inoculate that age group.

School staff and teachers across the country greeted waves of students who showed up for the first day at school. Many safety measures are still in place. They are required to mask up at all times, use hand sanitizer and respect social distancing guidelines.

In the Abdeslam Sayeh middle school in Rabat 95% of students are vaccinated, according to director Touria Tourayf, who expressed hope Friday that this will be more like a normal school year at last.

“The students were also eager to return to study in the classrooms. They felt how important it is to attend school and study in classrooms, as well as their closeness to their classmates and teachers,” said Islamic education teacher Hajar Yazghi.

Overall Morocco has registered more than 933,000 infections and 14,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to the Health Ministry.

In recent weeks, the country has witnessed a drop in infections. More than 50% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to figures by the Health Ministry.

As a result, the government has decided to ease some COVID-19 restrictions, notably allowing the assembly of 50 people for wedding ceremonies and other events.

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Houda Benalla in Rabat, Morocco contributed.

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic