Debate about schools reopening
Ahead of consultations between German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and state premiers next Wednesday, several cabinet members have expressed reluctance to relax pandemic measures. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said that which was painstakingly achieved should not now be gambled away lightly. Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU) also said it was "too early" for such advances. Nevertheless, she presented a step-by-step plan on Monday that is intended to provide orientation in the event of a school opening.
Among other things, the plan calls for masks, regular ventilation, the formation of fixed-size groups, equalized school traffic and other infection control measures. Family Minister Franziska Giffey (SPD) said with regard to schools and daycare centers: "If it continues in this positive sense, then I already think that even in February at least a gradual relaxation should still happen." In an open letter, child and youth psychologists called a safe opening of daycare centers, schools and recreational facilities "unpostponable".
The current regulations, including the extensive closure of schools and daycare centers, will remain in effect until next Sunday. Several state premiers have already presented drafts of how gradual relaxations could be arranged. Spahn said, "If and when we open, then first at daycare centers and schools." However, he rejected calls for teachers and educators to be given priority in vaccination. Available vaccine doses should be focused on those most at risk because of their previous illness or age, he said.
Regarding the virus mutations, the president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, said that the new variants are now increasingly detected in Germany, but are not yet dominant. As in other European countries, however, the mutants are expected to spread further, making pandemic control more difficult. The RKI is particularly concerned about mutation B.1.1.7, which was first detected in Great Britain. It is more contagious than previous forms of the virus, and there are initial indications that it also leads to more severe Covid 19 illnesses, although this is debated. Currently, just under six percent of infections in Germany are attributable to variant B.1.1.7.