In the online dialogue with parents, the Chancellor held back on making promises.
But Merkel assured parents that when coronavirus restrictions are relaxed, daycare centres (Kitas) and schools will be opened first – something that pandemic researchers also approve of, she said.
Merkel could not give an exact date for when this would be the case. But she hopes that “we are now on the last leg of the pandemic”.
The event was part of 'the chancellor in conversation' series which sees Merkel talk to groups of people to find out their experience of the pandemic.
In an emotional exchange, a mother and volunteer with the Catholic Women's Service in Wattenscheid was close to tears as she told Merkel how the lockdown is opening up old wounds for refugee children who cannot read or write.
“We are at our limit emotionally,” said another mother, while a father said: “The resources are used up”.
Parents told Merkel how they are worried about money and their livelihoods. There are also concerns about bad internet connections that make home schooling difficult and emergency care groups that resemble overcrowded “custody centres”.
There's also a multitude of personal problems for families, Merkel heard.
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“We live together like strangers,” one woman said about the lack of contact in her multi-generational household.
“The grandparents stay on their floor, we stay on ours.”
“Cabin fever” in cramped flats was also mentioned by parents, and concerns about neighbours who are using the lockdown time to turn their flat into a noisy construction site – making it extremely difficult for children to do school tasks and parents to work.
Merkel is talking to single parents about their plight under corona. Poignant scenes as they describe how hard it is & yet each of them has made the point to her: “I wouldn't trade places with you,” having to make the decisions re the pandemic for Germany pic.twitter.com/YQGcrSf9Rh
— Deborah Cole (@doberah) February 4, 2021
Merkel said she has no children herself, but tried to be encouraging during the dialogue.
“I suppose there are also nice moments,” she said, adding: “With every day that the sun comes up a little higher, the chance that life will become more normal increases.”
At the same time, Merkel appealed for understanding that there is no quick way out of this crisis.
“We don't want to open up and close down again straight away,” she said.
What could change?
Merkel made no promises but took notes on topics such as child support.
Single parents told Merkel the government's Kinderbonus – a one-off payment for every child – was a “drop in the ocean” because the pandemic measures have increased costs for electricity, heating and food as well as for protective masks.
On Wednesday the government decided on another Kinderbonus payment.
“We'll have to look at that again,” Merkel replied to a single mother's suggestion that the basic tax-free allowance (Kinderfreibetrag) for families be raised.
The Chancellor also heard that the state regulations for special leave (Corona -Sonderurlaub) are not practical.
Merkel said she believes Germany could introduce tutoring vouchers for kids. She also mentioned a summer campaign for students who could catch up on missed lessons. More details will be decided soon at a “children's summit”, she said.
Parents – (die) Eltern
Multi-generational household – (der) Mehrgenerationenhaushalt
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