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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

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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