High schools, universities slowly reopen in Iceland

REYKJAVIK (AFP) – Iceland’s secondary schools and universities began reopening yesterday, as the country began easing measures put in place seven weeks ago to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

The country, a vast island of 364,000 people located in the North Atlantic, confirmed 1,799 cases of the illness and 10 deaths, but the number of new cases has ranged between zero and three since April 23.

The University of Iceland in Reykjavik, which has 13,000 students, predicted a slow and gradual reopening, principal Jon Atli Benediktsson told AFP, and the same was expected at its six other campuses across the country.

Of Iceland’s 38 secondary schools, it was mainly vocational schools that were resuming classes in smaller groups.

At these schools, which often involve practical classes, the approaching end-of-year exams must be conducted in person and not online.

Most general secondary schools contacted by AFP said they would not be reopening and would instead continue distance learning for the last three weeks of the academic year, avoiding the need to find tricky solutions to social distancing in classrooms.

Those students will take their final exams exclusively online.

Nursery schools and primary schools, which have remained open albeit with reduced hours, resumed their regular schedules yesterday.

Iceland adopted a first slew of restrictions on March 16 to limit the spread of COVID-19, and added further measures on March 24. Hair salons and dentists also resumed business yesterday, though swimming pools and gyms remained shuttered. Gatherings, which have been limited to 20 people, are limited to 50 as of yesterday.