Schools and daycares reopened Monday, after two months of closure, in much of Germany despite fears of a third epidemic wave caused by the spread of the British variant.
The children returned to daycare or school on Monday morning in 10 of the 16 German regional states. They had already taken it up last week in two other Länder, Lower Saxony and Saxony.
“It is good that many schools in Germany are gradually resuming face-to-face teaching,” Education Minister Anja Karliczek told DPA. “Children, especially the youngest, need each other”.
Chancellor Angela Merkel herself admitted on Monday that there was a strong desire for easing restrictions in Germany, which she said she understood, according to comments made Monday morning behind closed doors at a meeting of Christian party leaders -democrat (CDU) and reported by an AFP participant.
Classes, interrupted face-to-face since mid-December, however resume under drastic sanitary conditions, with classes alternating in half-groups or fixed numbers that will not be able to meet other students.
The government also plans to speed up the vaccination of teachers and educators. Announcements to this effect could be made Monday after a meeting between regional health ministers and Angela Merkel’s government.
The million educators and teachers would thus pass to the rank of “high priority” to be vaccinated, despite the reservations of the German Vaccination Commission (STIKO), which wants to focus on the most vulnerable patients.
Free tests and self-tests at one euro are also expected from March 1, a promise from the Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, that the opposition but also the associations of doctors or pharmacists consider difficult to keep.
– “False promises” –
Despite drastic restrictions regularly extended for two months, Germany has all the trouble, especially because of the spread of the British variant, to stem the pandemic, which has killed nearly 68,000 people.
The seven-day incidence rate thus amounted to 61 on Monday (against 60.2 on Sunday), far from the ceiling of 35 below which relaxations can be introduced.
“The lock is strong enough against the original virus. But the new variants continue to develop,” worries Karl Lauterbach, expert on health issues within the Social Democratic Party. For him, Germany is “at the start of a third wave” of contamination.
“The change is unfortunately destroying our good development at the moment,” added Angela Merkel’s right-hand man at the Chancellery, Helge Braun on Monday morning.
In this context, the Minister of Health has dampened the hopes of those who hoped for flexibility, including with an incidence rate above 35. Government and regional presidents will meet on March 3 to discuss it.
“Everyone wants a plan of three and six months, but it is not possible at the moment. I think that one should not make false promises”, warned Mr. Spahn on ARD, evoking even a lowering of the incidence ceiling to 10 to relax the restrictions.
Chancellor Merkel, however, promised that easing scenarios would be developed by a government working group from Tuesday in the areas of personal contacts, schools and daycare, as well as for cultural, sporting and catering venues.
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