South Africa will close schools again over a surge in coronavirus cases that has claimed more than 6,000 lives so far, the president said late Thursday.

In an address to the nation, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the current academic year will be extended beyond the end of 2020 due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.

“Taking into account the views of the various stakeholders and expert bodies, the Cabinet decided that all public schools should take a break for the next four weeks,” he said.

South Africa reported more than 13,000 new cases of coronavirus Thursday, taking the tally to above 408,000. A total of 153 people lost their lives to COVID-19 and the death toll has neared 6,100, according to the health officials.

With a population of nearly 58 million, the southern African country has conducted some 2,63 million coronavirus tests so far and the total number of recoveries is over 236,200. The country is the hardest hit in Africa and fifth in world.

Ramaphosa said schools will be closed from July 27 and will reopen on Aug. 24. There are, however, some exceptions. “Specific arrangements will be made for different categories of special schools,” he said.

Students of grade 12 will take only a break for one week, while seventh graders will take a two-week break.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga welcomed the school break announcement. She urged school communities to continue with their work during the break, SABC News reported.

Ramaphosa thanked all teachers and other staff at schools across the country who have been on the front line during the coronavirus pandemic under difficult conditions.

“As South Africa approaches its peak of COVID-19 infections, we must take a cautious approach to prevent schools from becoming sites of transmission,” the president said.

“We ask you to do this because we believe it is important to ensure that schools do not become sites of transmission at a time when infections are rising fast,” he added.

Schools reopened in South Africa in June when authorities decided to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

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