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Now schools are opening across Europe – despite the Covid-19 alert

During the last academic year, 2020-21, almost all European countries closed their schools for at least some of the time. The exception was Sweden, where primary schools remained largely open during the first wave of the pandemic.

Today the situation is different. In most EU countries, the vast majority of the population has been vaccinated against covid-19, and in many cases, even most children from the age of 12.

At the same time, the most contagious omicron variant of the virus changed the decision-makers’ calculations. In most countries, omicrons are now completely dominant and have led to infection curves rising sharply.

Europe is that continent The epidemic is at its worst, with 4.9 million new cases in the last week of last year. In France alone, one million cases were recorded that week, and Spain was the most affected in terms of infections per 100,000 inhabitants.

The new variant also appears, unlike the previous variants, to infect children to a greater degree.

In the United States, which recorded a million infections in one day the other, decisions are now being made about closing thousands of schools in large cities such as Detroit, Milwaukee and Newark.

But for now at least, Europe appears to be choosing a different path.

Notified Decisions From crisis meetings with governments and public health authorities, children should go back to school – albeit with various safety measures. Many students have already returned

In France and Hungary, for example, term started early on Monday. And in other countries, such as Denmark and the United Kingdom, it started on Wednesday or Thursday. And in Sweden and a number of other countries, it applies next Monday, January 10.

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Some countries, such as Poland, may postpone the start of the study at the last minute due to the infection situation. On Tuesday, Artur Szaczynski, a government medical expert, estimated the chance was “50-50” to reopen schools as planned.

One case that most countries do not want to return to: distance education for younger students.

Photo: Stefan Schulz / DPA

In many countries, Including the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Christmas holidays began prematurely precisely to slow the spread of infection. In a number of other countries, such as Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Spain and Greece, children under the age of 12 are now starting to receive their vaccinations.

Some countries make vaccination mandatory for school staff. This applies, for example, to Italy, and from March 1 to Poland. Croatia has a required vaccine for all civil servants, and Austria will introduce the legal vaccination to all citizens in February. Such a law is also expected in Germany.

Many studies have shown this School closures during the past school year had many negative effects, whether on the education of children or their health. Children from vulnerable families were particularly affected.

This is one of the reasons The pressure is now on European governments to keep schools open at all costs. It is also something many political leaders have vowed to do over and over again.

But the decision to send children back to school is under heavy criticism in many countries.

In France, schools opened on Monday. The criticism was harsh for Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer because this is happening at the same time that the infection is increasing among school-age children. In Paris, approximately 2% in the 6-10 year old group tested positive during the week leading up to New Year’s.

50 “deeply concerned” doctors wrote an open letter to Health Minister Olivier Veran over Christmas weekend urging him to take charge of schools. At the same time, they warned about it Many children are at long-term risk but After being infected with an omicron.

I ItaliaAs schools open their doors between January 7 and 10, Several regions would like to see a postponement of the start of the study.

Vincenzo de Luca, regional president of Campania, which includes Naples, proposes a “breathing break” of 20 to 30 days of distance learning, so that more young people can get vaccinated. Others point out that children and adolescents account for one in four newly discovered cases of coronavirus in Italy, while only a tenth of the age group has been vaccinated.

I Holland, as the government introduced a new community lockdown before Christmas, the spring term still begins on Monday. The decision, announced this week, was heavily criticized by medical experts.

He should have waited for the final decision, says virologist Bert Nesters. It is believed that the peak of the ongoing wave of infections will not be reached until mid-January, and the risk of schoolchildren infecting the frail elderly.

I SpainWith record infection rates rising especially among children and young adults, the government decided on Tuesday to open schools as usual next week.

Health Minister Carolina Daria emphasized in a press conference that all regions of the country agree that teaching should take place on-site in schools, and said the country’s high level of vaccination means fewer people are becoming seriously ill today than ever before.

At the same time, many Spanish parents are expected to take matters into their own hands and keep their children at home – just as many did in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Denmark It is the European country where omicrons first controlled the spread of infection. Here, new highs were reached over the weekends, which led, among other things, to the teachers’ union expressing concern before term began. But the government still decided to open schools on January 5, according to the plan.

In recent days, the authorities have purchased millions of rapid tests and distributed them to the country’s schools, so that parents can take them and test their children at home. All students and staff are now encouraged to take the test twice a week, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.

Also Ireland It is severely damaged by omicrons, with infection curves pointing almost straight upwards. here He criticized the government’s decision to open schools Difficult by many teachers’ unions.

Labor union ASTI said in a statement that it was an “unacceptable risk” to start the semester without further safety measures in schools. TUI, another union, is warning of a shortage of teachers because many are in quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person.

In some schools, perhaps 80 percent of teachers are available, in others only 20 percent, says union president Michael Gillespie.

I Germany Schools across the country open after the holiday. The exception is Thuringia in the east, the state with the highest prevalence of infection.

Here, the state government has allowed the schools themselves to decide whether or not they should remain open. The decision has been criticized by school administrators, who believe that politicians are shifting responsibility for difficult decisions to them.

I United kingdom, where more than 150,000 new cases were detected daily in the past week, all school staff must test themselves before school starts Monday. Applicable to all high school students Two mandatory exams per week And in England, oral protection is now being introduced in all schools – which already applies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Incidentally, in almost all EU countries except Sweden.

Boris Johnson’s government is determined to keep schools open. But in practice, many may have to close, due to the spread of infection and a shortage of teachers.

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