Germany Postpones Decision On COVID-curbs At Schools

Germany Postpones Decision On COVID-curbs At Schools

Germany's federal government on Monday shelved plans for tougher coronavirus curbs in schools, including smaller classes and compulsory maskwearing, a draft document showed, bowing to opposition from leaders of Germany's 16 states.

BERLIN: Germany’s federal government on Monday shelved plans for tougher coronavirus curbs in schools, including smaller classes and compulsory mask-wearing, a draft document showed, bowing to opposition from leaders of Germany’s 16 states.

A draft of new measures, seen by Reuters, dropped earlier references both to school lessons being held with fewer pupils and plans to scrap an exemption from wearing masks for some elementary children.

It said instead that leaders of Germany’s 16 states would propose new measures to curb infections at schools next week.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, expected later on Monday to unveil new restrictive measures on household gatherings after talks with state leaders, is keen to flatten the curve of new COVID-19 infections before Christmas while limiting the economic damage.

Germany this month imposed a “lockdown light” to rein in a second wave that is sweeping much of Europe. Bars and restaurants are closed, but schools and shops remain open.

Under the new measures, people would be urged to avoid private parties completely and private gatherings in public will only be possible for people from one household with two people from another household. Rules introduced on Nov. 2 allow a maximum of 10 people from two households.

“The numbers are stabilising but too slowly,” the dpa news agency quoted Merkel as telling members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) conservative party.

The document says Germany expects to gradually overcome the pandemic after winter thanks to warmer weather and hopefully the start of vaccinations.

All people considered vulnerable will be eligible once a week for one heavy-duty face mask, also known as FFP2.


Merkel and regional state heads will meet again next Monday and possibly decide on further measures, including new concepts to limit infections at schools and daycare centres.

Some state leaders had criticised a proposal by Merkel’s government to split classes in two, saying it was unrealistic as it would require a doubling of teacher numbers.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 520,000 COVID-19 cases were detected in Germany by the end of October, but numbers spiked by 50% to 780,000 cases in the first two weeks of November.

In the same period, the number of COVID-19-intensive care patients in German hospitals increased by 70%, leading to regional bottlenecks.

“The measures are showing initial results,” Markus Soeder, the conservative leader of the southern state of Bavaria told German broadcaster ZDF. “The steep rise has slowed down. But I fear it is not enough.”

The latest draft measures also showed that the government had back-tracked on plans to require people with cold symptoms like coughing and sneezing to quarantine for five to seven days.

Several state premiers, including Soeder, had opposed the measure, not least because it would cause massive economic disruption.

The decision to keep schools and daycare centres open was designed to allow parents to continue working and avoid further damage to an economy expected this year to witness its worst recession since World War Two.

Deputy Finance Minister Joerg Kukies said during a business conference on Monday that the government still had the fiscal means to pump more emergency aid into the economy.

“We are still not out of the woods and it is clear that we must think about what we can do in terms of support,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke and Hans Seidenstuecker; Writing by Joseph Nasr and Arno Schuetze; Editing by Michael Perry, William Maclean)

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