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Benin tests teachers for coronavirus as school resumes Monday

Benin on Saturday was conducting mass coronavirus testing of teachers ahead of the reopening of schools as part of a plan to loosen measures against the pandemic.

The West African nation of 11 million is set to end six weeks of travel restrictions to key cities and allow some students back to classrooms from Monday.

Primary school teacher Mohammed Aliou waited nervously at a health centre in Cotonou after being called up by authorities to get screened.

“The test came back negative,” he told AFP with relief after emerging from the clinic.

“I feel safe and confident now.”

Countries across the globe are wrestling with issues of how to roll back restrictions while keeping a lid on the virus.

Benin is among a growing number of Africa nations relaxing measures that have battered their fragile economies and large numbers of poor.

The country has in recent days seen its tally of confirmed infections double to 284 as testing has been ratcheted up.

The authorities said that almost 14,000 tests were carried out between May 3 and 7, with the focus now on teachers and health workers.

So far just two fatalities from the virus have been confirmed.

Students from the final year of primary school through to universities will return to lessons on Monday after six weeks at home.

Masks will be distributed to pupils and nursery schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

Headmaster Ghislain Togan Cakpo — who also tested negative — said he was planning some changes to ensure social distancing at his school.

“We’ll turn the assembly room into a classroom,” he said.

Lecture halls at universities will remain shut to avoid large gatherings and some courses will be delivered online, officials said.

The plan to reopen schools has faced some criticism from unions.

Anselme Amoussou, general secretary of one of the country’s largest labour organisation, said testing remained “insufficient”.

“The government is aware that it will not be able to screen everyone before school starts,” he said.

“But we ask everyone to be in classes and we did not include students in the testing.”

Benin was one of the first African countries to make wearing masks obligatory in public when it introduced the measures in main cities and towns on April 8. (AFP)

Daily Trust

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