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EDUCATION

Majority of German schools and Kitas set to reopen on February 22nd

Many elementary schools and daycare centres (Kitas) in Germany are scheduled to gradually open their doors again from February 22nd.

Majority of German schools and Kitas set to reopen on February 22nd
Two children at a playground in Berlin on February 4th. Photo: DPA

Following consultations between Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and state premieres on how to proceed with the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday, a majority of the German states said they planned for children and pupils to return from this date.  

They include North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, Schleswig-Holstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Berlin and Hesse. 

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania plans to start school again on February 24th. Hamburg has yet to decide on an opening date.

The return, however, is linked to infection figures, meaning that a sudden spike in cases could cause states to reconsider their plans. Schools are also staying vigilant about new coronavirus variants, now detected in 13 out of 16 German states.

However, Saxony has announced that it will reopen its facilities as early as Monday February 15th.

READ ALSO: Hard-hit German state pushes for reopening of schools

Saxony-Anhalt so far intends to stick to its plan to gradually reopen schools starting on March 1st. 

A Kita child plays at home in Mühlacker, Baden-Württemberg amid school closures. Photo: DPA

In Lower Saxony, elementary school pupils have already been back to school in the so-called alternating mode since January. That means that classes are divided and pupils attend on rotating days. 

The majority of states are also planning to start classes with a rotating schedule, at least initially. Some states, including Berlin, are discussing how to roll out rapid coronavirus tests for pupils and educators. 

Most of the older students will probably not see the inside of their institution again until March, with the exception of graduating classes, for which face-to-face instruction has usually been maintained.

Schools and Kitas have also remained open for the “emergency care” of children and pupils who are not adequately equipped at home, or whose parents have to go out to work.

In their deliberations on Wednesday, the federal and state governments had agreed that the states should decide independently on how to proceed at schools and daycare centres.

They thus reached a compromise with Merkel, who called for them not to open again until early March.

The government and states reached a similar agreement in the spring following the first coronavirus wave. 

Early vaccinations for teachers and staff?

Federal Family Minister Franziska Giffey of the Social Democrats (SPD) expressed optimism that Kita staff and teachers at elementary schools could be vaccinated against Covid-19 earlier than previously planned. 

Chancellor Merkel said on Wednesday evening that she would welcome such a move. 

Giffey said in Berlin on Thursday that she agrees with this and considers it a very good way to ensure a safer opening.

Nothing has been decided yet, however. The federal and state governments had initially agreed on Wednesday to look into whether educators and primary school teachers could be vaccinated in the “category two with high priority.” 

In vaccination regulations, they have so far been in group three – along with over-60s. 

Group one vaccinations, which include over-80s, nursing home staff and residents, and health care workers at highest risk of infection, are currently underway.

READ ALSO: Germany aims to offer priority groups and all over 60s first vaccine by end of June

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TRAVEL NEWS

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.

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