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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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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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