What are Germany’s new coronavirus rules for classrooms and school winter holidays?

What are Germany's new coronavirus rules for classrooms and school winter holidays?
Photo: DPA
The winter holidays are to be brought forward and restrictions tightened in schools in Germany. Here are the main points.

What's the latest?

The German government and 16 states have agreed to extend the partial shutdown across Germany. As was the case in November, schools will remain open but there are some changes.

The government and states said that “in person teaching at schools continues to have the highest priority in these decisions. The right to education can best be guaranteed by learning and teaching face-to-face”.

What does this mean?

There are no plans for nationwide rules on smaller teaching groups, which Angela Merkel had called for recently.

Decisions on classes and teaching will be made locally, but extra restrictions have to happen if or when the situation worsens.

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“Further measures for the organisation of lessons” are to be implemented “school-specifically” in the event of an incidence above 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week,” the government and states have decided.

So-called hybrid teaching (digital and face-to-face) is also not made compulsory in worsening scenarios, but only mentioned as an example of possible additional measures. Moreover, such measures are to be limited to pupils from the 8th grade onwards – with the exception of the final year classes.

What about face masks?

It was also agreed that masks would be compulsory in lessons from seventh grade onwards, also depending on the regional coronavirus figures.

The paper mentions “significantly more” than 50 new infections per 100,00 inhabitants as a deciding factor. However, most federal states have long since made masks compulsory in lessons, starting in year five.

In Bavaria students have to wear masks at primary schools. Only Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania did not have compulsory masks in school before this point.

Childcare and schools should remain open. An agreement was reached to make masks compulsory in lessons from the 7th grade onwards, depending on the regional corona figures. The paper mentions “significantly more” than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants as a blurred line.

With a 7-day incidence of more than 200, more far-reaching measures such as hybrid or alternate teaching in the older age groups from year 8 (except for final year classes) are to be implemented “school-specific”, the paper states.

Pupils who test positive and their classmates should be immediately placed in a five-day quarantine. Anyone who then tests negative may end the quarantine.

IN DETAIL: Germany extends coronavirus shutdown and tightens restrictions

What about the Christmas holidays?

This year, Christmas holidays will start almost everywhere at the same time on December 19th. Even before the meeting, Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Saxony and Baden-Württemberg had announced that they would bring their holidays forward to 19 December.

In most of the other German states this date was set long before the pandemic as the start of the holidays. With the exception of Bremen and Thuringia, the holidays will now begin on this Saturday.

According to the decision taken on Wednesday, the two states reserve the right to “regulate the start of the holidays on an individual state basis”.

The measure is intended to reduce the number of contacts directly before the holidays and therfore the risk of infection within the family circle.

However, parents in states who are bring forward their holidays will now have to arrange for childcare for the additional days before Christmas Eve. Emergency care is under discussion, however.

What are the quarantine rules for students?

There should be uniform rules for students who are infected with coronavirus, and their classmates. Pupils who have tested positive should be sent home immediately to undertake a five-day quarantine. Their classmates  should also quarantine.

The days at the weekend count towards the quarantine. As further stated in the resolution paper of the federal government and states, the affected pupils are then to undergo a rapid test after five days of quarantine.

Those who are negative would be allowed back to school. Those who are positive should be tested again every three days until the test is negative.

According to the decision, teachers should not be included in this “cluster isolation” because of “the temporary and differently structured contact”. It remains to be seen whether there are enough rapid tests for such a procedure.

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