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EDUCATION

IN NUMBERS: Here’s where schools around Germany are currently closed

Unlike in Germany’s first lockdown in the spring, schools are allowed to stay open during the month of November. Yet many have still closed their doors - either voluntarily or due to quarantine measures. We take a look at who and where is affected.

IN NUMBERS: Here's where schools around Germany are currently closed
A student at a Gymnasium in Munich on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

At least 3,240 schools in 14 out of 16 states are no longer able to offer in-person classes, according to figures from the Funke Mediengruppe, mostly due to coronavirus quarantine measures.

That means that a teacher or pupil either has the virus – or has been reported to come into contact with someone who has it.

Hesse and Bremen did not report any figures because their schools already partially or completely operate through distance learning.

More than 300,000 pupils throughout Germany are currently in coronavirus quarantine, according to estimates from the German Teachers’ Association released on Wednesday.

The number of teachers in quarantine is currently as high as 30,000.

How many schools have shut down?

In North Rhine-Westphalia, a total of 552 schools have sent their pupils into quarantine.

In Bavaria, 255 schools have shut their doors, and in Baden-Württemberg 273 schools have also closed. 

READ ALSO: First Berlin schools close due to coronavirus cases

In Lower Saxony, 347 schools have completely or partially closed due to quarantine measures. The state already has a rotating teaching model, in which students take turns coming into classes. There are also 213 schools in Hamburg which are no longer offering regular classes. 

In Thuringia, 109 schools are currently affected by quarantine measures, 216 in Rhineland-Palatinate, 170 in Brandenburg and 120 in Saxony-Anhalt.

Additionally, 71 schools in Schleswig-Holstein, 128 in Saarland and 170 in Saxony and 30 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania also partially or fully closed. In Berlin a total of 365 are affected.

Germany-wide there are around 40,000 schools with 11 million pupils and 800,000 teachers.

Ninth-grade students wearing masks in a Bavarian classroom. Photo: DPA

‘A great achievement’

Despite the closures, Alexander Lorz, the Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs of Hesse, said on Wednesday evening on ZDF-“heute journal” that 95 percent of pupils in his state continued to attend school regularly. 

“Under the conditions we are currently experiencing in this pandemic, this is a great achievement,” said the politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

Distance learning could not fully compensate for face-to-face teaching, he said, meaning that a balance had to be struck between infection prevention on the one hand and the schools' educational mission on the other.

READ ALSO: More schools around Germany reopen to pupils – but with strict coronavirus measures

Coronavirus protection measures such as mask wearing outside of the classroom and frequently opening windows still don’t stretch far enough, said to Marlis Tepe, President of the Education and Science Union (GEW). 

“The way classes are taught at the moment, the health risks for pupils and teachers are too high,” the GEW leader told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) and called for classes to be better split up into rotating learning groups.

“One group each would then be at school and one at home,” said Tepe.

For the pupils, it would better to divide classes which are spaced out and thus maintain distances in class than to risk that more and more classes would have to be completely quarantined.

Economic expert warns against further closures

Veronika Grimm, member of the Federal Government's Council of Experts on Economic Development, warned against a further reduction in in-person classes. 

“This would have a significant impact on the future opportunities of young people”, the economist told RND.

“If schools and day-care centres are closed, many employees will only have limited access to companies. This will be quite significant effect in terms of economic development.”

Parents in Germany: Are you satisfied with the way your school(s) has handled the coronavirus? What do you think schools could do better to both protect students and continue classes? Let us know in the comments or at [email protected]. We would be happy to include your thoughts in an upcoming article.

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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