Meidinger told Welt on Wednesday that he believed hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren would have to be ordered into quarantine because of the particularly contagious Delta variant when they return to school in autumn.
“Nobody can rule out the possibility that we will get an enormous fourth wave because of the Delta variant and the lack of vaccination coverage,” he said. “In which case, alternating lessons (in-person and online teaching) will once again be necessary.”
Around Germany, each of the federal states is responsible for setting Covid rules in schools.
In the wake of falling infection rates in June and more vaccinations, Germany had said its aim was for teaching to go back to normal after the summer holidays with classroom teaching for all after disruption throughout the pandemic.
Some state leaders had already been asking children to attend school for face-to-face lessons at full capacity – or have promised to introduce this after summer.
States such as Berlin and Bavaria are insisting that the 2021/22 school year will kick off with an “obligation to attend in person”. According to Berlin’s guidance for parents, “not wanting to be tested is not a valid reason for a child not to attend school”.
In the view of Health Minister Jens Spahn, however, some Covid-19 measures will still be necessary after the holidays – even if infections rates stay low in autumn. These measures could include testing, masks, ventilation and alternating lessons.
Politicians are ‘walking on thin ice’
Meidinger called on politicians to be honest about the realities of Covid-19.
“Anyone who promises now that there will definitely be full face-to-face teaching next year is walking on thin ice,” he said. “Face-to-face teaching at any price means accepting the contamination of schools. Politicians should say that honestly.”
Teachers’ Association President Heinz-Peter Meidinger believes in-person teaching could fuel a Covid fourth wave in Germany. Photo: picture alliance / Armin Weigel/dpa | Armin Weigel
Free Democratic Party (FDP) chairman Christian Lindner has argued that children tend not to be serious drivers of the pandemic, and has spoken out in favour of a full reopening alongside Covid vaccinations in schools.
After the summer holidays, schools should no longer have to be closed, Lindner told the Funke media group.
“I am in favour of vaccination programs for young people in schools,” he said. “You have to prepare for this on a large scale with mobile vaccination teams.”
In the end, students and parents would still have to decide for themselves whether they wanted a vaccination, he added.
Infections double in two weeks
The 7-day incidence of Covid-19 infections has been rising continuously for over two weeks in Germany, and has recently slipped into double-digits. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Wednesday morning, the 7-day incidence was 11.4, compared with 10.9 on Tuesday.
Though still on the low side, the incidence has more than doubled since its most recent low of 4.9 on July 6th – and RKI chief Lothar Wieler believes young and unvaccinated people are disproportionately contributing to the rising numbers.
The number of new daily infections is also on the up, with 2,203 new infections reported nationwide, compared with 1,548 a week ago. However, the number of deaths dropped compared to a week ago – 28 Covid deaths were reported within 24 hours a week ago, and 19 this Wednesday.
The incidence has so far been the basis for many coronavirus restrictions in the pandemic, for example as part of the federal emergency brake that expired at the end of June. In the future, other factors such as hospital admissions are to be taken into account more strongly.
In-person teaching – (der) Präsenzunterricht
Alternating lessons – (der) Wechselunterricht
Obligation to attend – (die) Präsenzpflicht
Drivers of the pandemic – (die) Pandemie-Treiber
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