German teachers call for uniform Covid rules in schools nationwide

Teachers' and students' representatives agree that there is a need for uniform nationwide testing rules and school closures if the 7-day incidence of infections rises above 100. Will these steps be implemented?

German teachers call for uniform Covid rules in schools nationwide
An empty classroom in Munich at the end of March. Photo: DPA

Ahead of Thursday afternoon’s meeting of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK), teachers’ associations and student representatives have called for uniform nationwide rules for school openings and coronavirus tests.

Here’s what they would like to see implemented throughout the Bundesrepublik.

Uniform openings and mandatory tests

“The ball is now in the court of the education ministers,” the president of the German Teachers’ Association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

“They can now show whether they can manage to finally come up with national rules for schools more than a year after the start of the pandemic.”

READ ALSO: All children in Germany should return to school in March, state ministers agree

Meidinger emphasised the need for mandatory testing “twice a week” for all students in Germany.

He also said that a uniform line was needed on the issue of school openings.

“It’s not acceptable that every federal state does what it wants – and individual states say they’ll open regardless of the incidences (the number of Covid infections per 100,000 people in seven days).”

At the last coronavirus federal-state summit on March 22nd, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 state premiers decided to offer two tests per week for pupils “as soon as possible”. 

Several states have implemented this, but it is unclear if this is happening everywhere.

In some states, compulsory testing has also been announced – students are to be allowed to take part in face-to-face classes only after a negative test.

Closure at incidence above 100

When a region reaches a 7-day incidence of more than 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, “schools must be closed,” emphasised Meidinger. 

However, he said that if the vaccination campaign among teachers is “well advanced” then school boards, along with local health authorities, should be able to decide whether in-class lessons are still possible. 

But it’s not there yet: due to an ongoing debate about the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, there is currently a setback in vaccinating teachers, Meidinger said.

The Secretary General of the Federal Pupils Conference, Dario Schramm, also called on education ministers to agree on a standard policy for school openings across Germany

“In hotspots with incidences of more than 100, however, there must be mandatory distance learning – with exceptions only for high school graduates and graduating classes,” Schramm said.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Why Switzerland didn’t follow Germany’s lead and close schools

No surprising decisions expected

In the run-up to its meeting, the KMK said that the talks also served to prepare for the next coronavirus summit between Merkel and state premiers scheduled for Monday April 12th.

In nine of the 16 federal states, Easter vacations come to an end on Sunday.

Depending on the state, certain grades are now being sent back to distance learning as a precaution. Elsewhere, there is a mix of in-person and online teaching.

Each of Germany’s states have the power to decided for themselves on education issues.

Member comments

  1. Absolutely ludicrous that “leaders” think school closures are a solution to lower cases when time and time again science has shown children don’t make up a high percentage of cases rate increases. They NEED to be in school.

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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.