Berlin (dpa) – After about two months of closure and emergency care, daycare centers and elementary schools will open again in another ten federal states today.
Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek supports this: “It is good that many schools in Germany are now gradually starting classroom teaching again,” she told the German press agency. Classroom teaching cannot be replaced by anything. “Children, especially younger ones, need each other.”
In view of the infection situation, the CDU politician called for “to take all available means to prevent virus transmission” in order to be able to keep the school going for the next few weeks. The latest development in the number of infections deserves the greatest attention, said Karliczek and also referred to the spread of new virus variants. “That must also be taken into account when running schools. But I am sure that the federal states will take this into account when deciding to open the school.”
Karliczek has also spoken out in favor of a higher prioritization in the vaccination of primary school teachers and kindergarten teachers. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) wants to discuss this with his country colleagues in the afternoon. And there is something else on the agenda of this day when it comes to combating corona: The so-called Corona Cabinet of the Federal Government advises on rapid tests by trained staff for everyone. The pending decisions are being overshadowed by the increase in important corona indicators – and by growing criticism of the new infection value as a guideline for political action.
So what is this Monday about?
OPENING OF SCHOOLS AND KITAS: After openings in Lower Saxony and Saxony, daycare centers and elementary schools are opening or expanding in another ten federal states. Lessons should either take place alternately with half classes that come to school alternately, or in full operation with fixed groups that should not meet if possible. More or all of the children are looked after in the daycare centers. Each federal state regulates the details for itself.
FASTER VACCINATIONS FOR EDUCATORS AND TEACHERS: With a view to the openings of elementary schools and daycare centers, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Prime Minister Spahn had commissioned to check whether elementary school teachers and daycare educators could be given higher priority for vaccinations. The Corona vaccination ordinance would have to be changed so that, according to the Federal Statistical Office, around one million people affected move from group three (higher priority) to group two (high priority). Several countries and Spahn are in favor. That would take a good week, until the beginning of March, said the minister in the ARD. The Baden-Württemberg Minister of Social Affairs Manfred Lucha (Greens) announced there for his country that from this Monday educators, teachers and doctors “and everyone from the medical field” should be vaccinated.
The German Foundation for Patient Protection fears that the seriously ill from group three will fall behind. “If professional groups are to be set even further forward, it will cost life,” said Foundation Board Member Eugen Brysch of the dpa. The health expert of the Union parliamentary group, Karin Maag, warned in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (Monday): “We did well to have largely adopted the recommendations of the Standing Vaccination Commission.” Otherwise you get “very difficult considerations”.
FAST TESTS FOR EVERYONE: Among other things, this is what the so-called Corona Cabinet, a special committee of Merkel and a few ministers, deals with in its Monday consultation. Spahn had announced that from March 1, all citizens can be tested for the corona virus by trained staff free of charge. This should be possible in test centers, practices or pharmacies. However, details of the implementation are not yet known. A corresponding adjustment of the corona test regulation has yet to be decided.
INFECTION NUMBERS: The fear of a third corona wave is growing. The curve of new infections showed up for the fourth day in a row on Sunday – despite the lockdown that has been in place since mid-December. On Monday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported hardly any change here: within one day the health authorities reported 4,369 new infections, a week ago it had been 4,426.
At the same time, however, the number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (seven-day incidence) continued to rise: to 61.0 nationwide. The day before it was still at 60.2. According to the RKI management report on Sunday afternoon, the nationwide seven-day R-value was 1.10 (previous day 1.07). This means that 100 infected people theoretically infect 110 more people. This could indicate that the more contagious virus variants are spreading faster.
OPENING STRATEGY: At their last meeting on February 10, the country leaders and Merkel agreed that a strategy for further easing should be drawn up and that they would continue to discuss on March 3. The step-by-step plan should not only be based on the new infections, as the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Conference, Michael Müller (SPD), said of the “Stuttgarter Zeitung” and the “Stuttgarter Nachrichten” (Monday). “An R-value well below 1 and a falling utilization of intensive care medicine will also be important criteria for the next easing step.”
The mayor of Berlin announced a proposal for the new week: If the federal states “remained stable for several weeks” below the incidences of 35 or 50, “further steps in culture and gastronomy can follow”.
Spahn said in the ARD: “It makes sense (…) to define levels from when the next step can be taken. But the truth is: an incidence of less than 10, which is in any case in most regions in Germany quite far away.” He mentioned an infection rate that some virologists demand as a target value, but which some prime ministers consider to be too ambitious.
The chairman of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, urgently warned against further easing. “Anyone who talks about easing in times of increasing R-values is acting absolutely irresponsibly,” said the doctor to the newspapers of the Funke media group. “The incidence value shows where we are currently. The R value shows where we are going. A value clearly above 1.0 threatens exponential growth again – and that is exactly the case now.”
The head of the Expert Council in Health Care, Ferdinand Gerlach, criticized the orientation towards the incidences because they also depend on the test frequency. It is better to observe and test “representative cohorts”, he told the news portal “ThePioneer” (Monday). “If we know how great the risk of infection is at work, at school, when shopping, in the cinema, in a museum or on public transport, we can react more specifically and do not have to shut down an entire economy,” said the Spahn consultant.
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