UPDATE: All German states announce school and Kita closures

UPDATE: All German states announce school and Kita closures
The Rupprecht Gymnasium in Munich, which had already closed following a coronavirus infection. Photo: DPA
All of Germany's 16 states will close schools and Kitas (daycare centres) next week in a bid to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Until the beginning of the Easter holidays on April 6th, all kindergartens, schools and Kitas (daycare centers) in Germany will shut their doors next week, with the majority closing on Monday. 

This means that educational institutions will effectively be closed until April 20th, or the end of the holidays. 

Saarland first announced the closures late on Thursday, which state leaders said was due to its more vulnerable situation as a border state with France.

Bavaria and Berlin, both which have had several individual closures, announced Friday morning that they were also temporarily shutting down schools, with the other states following suit throughout the day.

READ ALSO: School closures and no partying: How coronavirus is affecting life in Germany

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania decided on Saturday to close its doors due to a growing number of coronavirus cases in the northeastern state. Saxony first wants to suspend compulsory schooling on Monday so that teachers, students, and parents are to be given time to prepare for school closures.

Brandenburg will suspend regular school instruction from Wednesday on for the time being. School attendance will thus continue to be possible, but will no longer be compulsory.

On Thursday, Bavaria's State Premier Markus Söder (CSU) stated that state-wide school closures in Bavaria could become necessary to prevent situations such as that in Italy, which currently has more than 12,000 cases. 

Bavaria has also announced restrictions on people visiting hospitals and nursing homes.

The Bavarian local elections on Sunday are still scheduled to take place, however.

Concerns over closures

According to the Federal Statistical Office, there are about 43,000 schools in Germany – including vocational schools – with 11 million pupils and 820,000 teachers.

France announced Thursday that it was closing all schools nationwide in order to slow the spread of the virus, following in the footsteps of Italy, which closed all education institutions over a week ago.

At the nationwide Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) on Thursday, large-scale school closures had not been planned at first, with several state leaders divided as to whether school closures would be the best move.

However, the conference did not rule out such a measure, said the chairperson, Rhineland-Palatinate Education Minister Stefanie Hubig (SPD).

There are some concerns about widespread school closures, though.

Minister for Family Affairs Franziska Giffey said this step would affect parents who would then be absent from clinics, nursing or medical practices.

“Often grandparents step in to provide care. But this would put the elderly in particular at even greater risk,” she added.

Bavaria announced an emergency plan for the care of children whose parents work in front line jobs.

“We will ensure care for children whose parents who are in system-critical professions,”  said Minister of Culture Michael Piazolo.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) said on Thursday evening that people should avoid unnecessary social contact wherever possible. Her words followed the cancellation or postponement of most large cultural and sporting events throughout Germany.

A temporary closure of kindergartens and schools, for example by bringing forward the Easter holidays, was an option, she said.

READ ALSO: Merkel calls for social contact 'to be avoided where possible'


 


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