BERLIN (AP) – Elementary school students in more than half of Germany’s 16 states returned home from school on Monday after spending more than two months at home, marking the first major easing of the country’s epidemic since Christmas.
Kindergartens also reopened their doors to preschoolers, giving long-awaited relief to stressful parents trying to stay away from home or childcare.
The move was agreed two weeks ago during a meeting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governors, despite signs that the decline in the country is slowing again and even rising in some areas.
Education Minister Anya Karlicek defended the decision to reopen schools, saying that young children in particular benefit from group learning together.
In an interview with the German news agency dpa, Karlicek said that schools should use “all possible means to prevent the transmission of the virus”, expressing confidence that public education officials in Germany will monitor the infection numbers when they decide. where to reopen.
The German Bureau of Disease Control reports 4,369 newly confirmed cases and 62 deaths in the past day, although Monday’s figures are often lower due to late-weekend reporting.
In Berlin, other elementary school students will have to wear masks in class, and some will continue to do some of their homework to help reduce class size. Officials have pledged to install air purifiers in all classrooms. So far, these efforts have not progressed much; instead, teachers have to open the windows regularly to avoid stale air, which is full of possible viruses.
Education unions have called for teachers and kindergarten staff to be moved to a higher priority group for vaccinations, an idea officials say they will discuss.
The governor of Bavaria said on Monday that Germany should aim to perform rapid tests on 1 million people every day, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of regular PCR tests performed daily. Marcus Sերըder also announced that his southern state, which has seen a sharp rise in cases in some countries bordering the Czech Republic, will reopen flower gardens on Monday.
The officials have already agreed that the hairdressers will reopen in the territory of the republic on March 1.
A prominent German doctor warned against further loosening the blockade at this time, citing the so-called R-number, which indicates how many people are infected with COVID-19 each. The number has increased to 1.1, which shows an upward trend in cases.
Frank Ulrich Montgomery, president of the World Medical Association, told the Funke news group that talking about easing the blockade at this stage was “absolutely irresponsible.”