BERLIN – When President Angela Merkel announced the latest round of restrictions on public life, she named the companies that will be forced to close bars, restaurants, theaters, concert halls, gyms and tattoo parlors. But missing from the list released Wednesday are schools and day care centers – the first places to be closed in the spring.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that schools would be exempt from the nationwide restrictions, which will take effect Friday. Ireland allowed schools to remain open despite a nationwide lockout that came into effect earlier this month.
Not everyone is happy with the results, but policymakers are taking extra precautionary measures to reduce the risk in schools, such as the regular airing of first classrooms with mask requirements for teachers and students, and the use of schools during breaks. They say they are using the lessons they have learned hard from the many months of fighting the epidemic and are ready to change directions in the event of a turn for the worse.
Why keep schools open?
Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin has said it is important for schools to remain open, even though his country can no longer avoid restrictions, despite the detriment to the economy.
“We cannot and will not allow the future of our children and youth to be another victim of this disease,” Mr Martin said in a national speech. “They need their education.”
Around the world, there is a growing concern that the epidemic is causing lasting harm to the education and emotional development of a whole generation of children.
Earlier this month, a German conference of culture ministers responsible for coordinating education policy emphasized the right to education for children, which they said was the best among peers in the classroom. “It should take high priority in making all decisions regarding the control measures to be taken,” the minister said.
In her announcement, Ms Merkel cited another reason why maintaining access to schools was important, pointing to the “dramatic social impact” of closing schools and day care centers when they were closed in March and April.
“To name it clearly: Violent attacks on women and children have increased dramatically,” Ms Merkel said, instead justifying her government’s decision to suspend sports, cultural events and restaurants. “We need to keep in mind the social consequences if we are to intervene in these issues.”
Keeping children at home has often become difficult Parents – especially mothers – devote their divided attention to work.
What do medical experts say?
Medical experts are now pointing out many things that will not be known again in the spring: with proper precautions, The rate of corona virus transmission in schools is relatively low, Especially among younger students; Infected children have mild symptoms; Measures such as wearing a mask, social distance and air circulation can be more effective than they predict.
But that doesn’t mean open schools are risk-free. Although schools in Western Europe and the United States are not known to have been the main source of the eruption, They were in Israel, Which loosened a barrier that required masks when it did not enforce social distance in schools.
Students and staff are still at risk of catching the virus and spreading it, especially if family members are elderly or threatened with compromising the immune system. There are no right answers, so this is about balancing one risk against another.
The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found that less than 5 percent of coronavirus cases reported in 27 countries in the European Union and the United Kingdom are children. In a study published in August. The company found that school closures “are unlikely to provide significant additional protection for children’s health.”
What precautions are taken?
The French requirement for school children to wear a mask will be expanded to include elementary school children, starting at age six. Previous rules only cover children 11 and older.
But, as long as the children are constantly crowded in the restaurant during the lunch break, experts are concerned that the masks alone will not provide adequate protection, and when their masks come out, the risk of droplets spreading while they are sitting together can lead to infection.
“Eating lunch together inside a house with windows now closed is a problem,” said Dr. Helene Rosinot, a French doctor who specializes in public health. “We proposed that they could be served in classrooms and not all eaten together.”
Experts say that opening windows regularly to allow fresh air into the classroom can help slow the spread of the virus, but it can be more difficult as the weather becomes colder and more humid.
Germany did not introduce any new restrictions on schools on Wednesday. But since the reopening of schools the country has been required to take various precautions.
German schools must devise safety plans that open the windows at least once during a class, ensuring ventilation at re-intervals, even if students are wearing masks.
The German Public Health Authority has recommended that people wear a mask when moving through hallways and that older students wear it while sitting in class. Social Distance Needs Children can sit farther by reducing the size of the class, and include keeping each student in the same bunch of others throughout the day, even on the playground.
It suggests that schools should move to mixed or distance learning if the infection rate in a region rises to more than 50 persons per 100,000 population. Other governments in Europe and some in the United States have adopted similar rules, recommending or forcing schools to close where epidemics reach a certain threshold.
What do parents and teachers think?
Many people are concerned about open schools, but unlike some parts of the United States, Europe has seen little opposition from parents or teachers. In general, attendance is required and distance learning is not an option.
While many parents are relaxed about enrolling their children in school, instead of forcing the double burden of working from home and helping children with distance education, they worry that others are forcing their children to take unnecessary risks.
Teachers in France are concerned that it is not enough for elementary school children to wear masks to ensure everyone is healthy. “We need to reduce the number of students being taught by going for mixed teaching,” Quizline David, general secretary of the SNUP Teachers’ Association in the Sean-Maritime region, told France 2 television.
Although many teachers in Germany have drawn up precautions, they are concerned that not all schools follow them. They fear that the political will to keep children in classrooms will prevail, even in areas where health officials recommend going to distance education because the infection rate is so high.
Heinz-Peter Meidinger, president of the German Teachers’ Association, said: “Yes, we say keep schools open and follow the rules for infection control. “But don’t open schools at any cost.”
Megan Specia contributed to the reporting from London.