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German teachers call for stricter school closures as part of country-wide Covid measures

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German teachers call for stricter school closures as part of country-wide Covid measures
Schools in a graduating class in Groß-Gerau, Hesse on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Many schools will have to switch back to online learning sooner than planned due to new 'emergency brake' measures to be voted on Wednesday. Here's why some educators say the rules don't go far enough.

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The German teaching union has called for emergency Covid-19 measures to be tightened once again, so that schools transition to online learning at a lower rate of infection than proposed by the government.

Under Germany’s Notbremse (emergency brake) measures, set to be voted on Wednesday, schools would have to close if more than 165 infections per 100,000 residents in seven days are detected.

Yet the president of the union, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, called the threshold, already lowered from 200 in new draft legislation Monday, “still too high".

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: These are the planned changes to Germany's 'emergency brake' Covid rules

According to the recommendations of the federal committee on health, schools are not not to offer in-person teaching if the 7-day incidence rate goes above 165, though graduating classes and schools for children with special educational needs should be exempt from this.

In many regions, the rate of infection has already exceeded this threshold. 

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Miedinger stressed that he could not understand why schools should be held to a different standard to other areas of society.

He suggested that “in order to effectively prevent outbreaks of the virus in schools, in-person classes should stop when the incidence rate goes above 100”.

The national Covid-19 incidence rate in those aged 10 to 19 has already increased significantly, he added.

READ ALSO: 'Third wave is clearly upon us': German ICU waves struggle as younger patients fill beds

What are the new 'emergency brake' measures?

Alongside these amendments to Germany's Infection Protection Act legislation, a curfew will be enforced in regions where the number of coronavirus cases is particularly high. 

Original plans introduced the curfew at 9pm, but new changes would delay the start to 10pm, with restrictions lasting through the night until 5am. 

It will still be permitted to go jogging and walking alone until midnight, but group activities are forbidden. 

The emergency measures will be decided on in the Bundestag on Wednesday and will take effect shortly after they are approved at state level. The rules will come into force when the 7-day incidence in a city or region exceeds 100 on three consecutive days. 

'German schools will largely have to close their doors'

Most areas have welcomed the changes. Gerd Landsberg, president of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, told the Rheinische Post: “It is only right that the curfew begins at 10pm, otherwise we would have seen everyone rushing into supermarkets before they closed."

He also believes it is a sensible decision to close schools when the incidence value creeps above 165. 

“If we look at the current rate, the new law means that German schools will largely have to close their doors to students in the coming weeks."

READ ALSO: German teachers call for uniform Covid measures in schools nationwide

Some politicians have said that the new unified measures will win back the trust of people in Germany.

“The confusion caused by varying levels of enforcement of the emergency brake regulations across the country has sacrificed public trust over the past few weeks," said Leipzig’s mayor Burkhard Jung

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“We now need to regain this trust through a cohesive nationwide approach, though at the same time it is good that the national emergency measures will be limited to the end of June."

Klaus Reinhardt, president of the German Association of Doctors, recommended further criteria for the introduction of emergency brake measures. 

Alongside the incidence rate, he suggested that measures should also take into account the number of new patients being admitted to intensive care units and those needing to be put on ventilators.

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Anonymous 2021/04/20 21:40
@Lyssa77: That is quite a conclusion to draw from this. That’s like saying: I didn’t realize Lyssa77 didn’t care about children losing a parent. Remote learning cannot replace learning with physical presence. Not even close! But for you to accuse us of not caring about children’s education? Wow! Have you any idea how much more difficult it is/how much more time it requires for us to convert our lessons to something engaging and as meaningful as our physical lessons? It is sooo much harder. It would be far easier for us to say, “Nope. Enough remote learning. Everyone in the classroom.” But it is not safe. I have two little girls as students whose father is in a medically induced coma as his life hangs in the balance due to Covid. I have students whose parents are undergoing cancer treatment. If you’re asking which we care about more — that our kids have parents to go home to or that they master their 9 times table by the end of year 3... I guess I’d have to choose the latter. I hope you reconsider your comment. It’s ok to have a change of heart.
  • Anonymous 2021/04/21 11:55
    There are many essential workers that have to continue to work at a risk to themselves, but they ARE essential. Teachers are essential. Go back to work. All the teachers and staff at our school that wanted to be vaccinated are vaccinated. If Germany failed its people and especially the teachers, why punish the kids? I’ve never been concerned about my kids catching COVID because statistically they won’t even know they ever had it.
  • Anonymous 2021/04/21 07:43
    asymptomatic spread is a theory with which many doctors disagree with. First time in the history we are treating healthy people (with no symptoms of disease) as a threat. What if you are wrong and base on the false claims , you are refusing children their basics rights to have proper educations, meet friends and do sport? I know personally two cases of teenagers taking their own lives due to lockdown. Mental health is crucial for your well being. https://gbdeclaration.org/
Anonymous 2021/04/20 20:57
I didn’t realize German teachers didn’t care about children’s education because remote and virtual school is useless. Science shows this as a fact.
  • Anonymous 2021/04/21 11:40
    Honestly, this response really only undermines the hard work and focus teachers have had on student well-being for the last 15 months. We can be both critical of the situation regarding vaccines and not enough serious support for schools while also wanting to serve children and their families. I'm an educational leader in Germany and we are all doing our best to serve the needs of children but not enough is being done to help us and to make sure both the teaching staff and children are as safe as possible. Fully vaccinate teachers as a start!

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