Berlin's public health officials are changing their strategy for dealing with the coronavirus in schools and daycare centers. This became known on Friday. In the future, only infected employees and students will be sent into quarantine, as well as their household members. Previously, the quarantine also applied to learning and daycare groups. This surprising change of course summarized the twelve public health officers in a joint statement, which is available to the Daily MIrror.
The Senate Department for Education and Youth wants to implement the requirement, as a spokesman said in response to an inquiry. However, he could not say how soon this will happen.Education senator Sandra Scheeres (SPD) appreciated, one has now "a uniform default, to which parents and schools can adjust". State parent spokesman Norman Heise said the decision came "too early." Parents' opinions are divided, he said.
The public health officials' justification states that contact tracing should no longer determine the actions of public health departments. It is now a matter of "living with the virus" because otherwise "the collateral damage would clearly exceed the benefit," the doctors write, referring to the widespread psychological problems that have resulted from the long period of homeschooling.
The restriction of social contact damages children's health, "more than can be tolerated any longer." It must be recognized, he said, that in the current situation "a complete avoidance of Covid-19 in these age groups is unrealistic."The predominant virus variant of the delta type is "so contagious that a safe infection of unvaccinated children is mandatory to expect." Taking into account the "usually absent or at most mild symptoms" in children and the infectiousness of the children, which is not to be considered significant for the population and which has also been proven in many ways, the Berlin health offices would in future only send children who have a positive Covid-19 detection into isolation.
The public health officials' rationale for the change in direction was shared by eleven of the twelve district representatives, while the policy decision itself was made by all twelve. The letter is dated August 25, but only became known on August 27 through communication from Neukölln's city councilor for health and youth, Falko Liecke (CDU). The CDU politician expressly welcomed the stipulation: "Those who are sick stay at home. Everyone else can learn, play and go to work."
The official physicians deviate with their specification from the recommendation of the Charité virologist Christian Drosten, who had last recommended a five-day quarantine. Up to now, it is 14 days, which Drosten had called however few days ago opposite the German press agency "unbearably long".
In addition, the virologist had said that it was no longer necessary to prevent every conceivable transmission in schools because of the vaccination of adults. In the future, however, it should not be waited with the quarantine until there is a second Covid 19 case in the class, as it is now, he said. "It's better to quarantine the entire class immediately upon the first case, but do it briefly." Nothing of this recommendation by Drosten is to be found among the medical officers.
The education administration does not want to follow the official physicians with regard to their comments on testing. According to a spokesperson, the schools will continue to test three times a week. There are also talks in the Senate about large-scale testing in daycare centers.On the other hand, public health officials advise against mass testing. With high numbers of cases in the population, testing in schools "inevitably leads to the identification of cases in children and adolescents." These usually healthy individuals would then be "placed in isolation" for 14 days. The effort and harm for those affected and the benefit - namely the prevention of the spread of the virus - would be out of proportion. There would be rather "disadvantages for the incidences in the autumn, into which these are then shifted".
Currently, there are 960 infections in schools
On Friday, the education administration also announced the new infection figures for schools. According to them, about 920 students are currently infected, as well as 40 employees. There are 87 groups of students in quarantine, compared to 82 the previous week.Also, the ministers of education spoke out on Friday and voted against intensive quarantine measures or even renewed school closures.
They referred to the contribution of six scientists, which had appeared on Friday on time online. In view of the vaccination offers, the scientists had pointed out that adults now had protection against severe covid-19 disease "largely in their own hands." It should therefore no longer be achieved through contact restrictions in children.
"Do not prevent infections at all costs"
"For this reason, and because children very rarely become severely ill with covid-19, it no longer makes sense to try to prevent every single infection in schools at all costs," the scientists write. They are
- Reinhard Berner, head of the Department of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at Dresden University Hospital
- Jörg Dötsch, Professor of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the University Hospital of Cologne and President of the German Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine
- Gerd Fätkenheuer, Professor of Infectiology at the University Hospital Cologne
- Florian Klein, Professor of Virology at the University Hospital Cologne
- Gérard Krause, Head of the Department of Epidemiology at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, and
- Berit Lange, research associate in the Department of Epidemiology at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig.
The six researchers recall that until now "all measures in schools have been guided by the maxim of preventing as many infections as possible in the context there." In the meantime, the basic conditions have changed, "so that this principle should be put to the test.
Researchers call for "limited environmental quarantine"
This is because large-scale quarantine creates "great uncertainty among students, parents and teachers." A specific contact person management system should therefore be introduced for schools and childcare facilities "that strikes an appropriate balance between the number of preventable illnesses and the number of teaching days lost due to quarantine."Immediate but limited environmental quarantine when a case is detected or controlled, systematic testing saves instructional days and prevents "most, though not all, cases of infection in a class." Exactly how such an environmental quarantine would be designed, i.e., which students should be quarantined in the event of a positive case, would need to be discussed, but should keep the above balance substantially in mind.
Britta Ernst (SPD), President of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs and Brandenburg's Minister of Education and Youth, called the remarks a "very important contribution by leading scientists." She said she was pleased "that this supports the course of keeping schools open." She said it was also important to reconsider the guidance on quarantine in the interests of keeping schools open as much as possible.Karin Prien (CDU), Vice President of the KMK and Minister for Education, Science and Culture in Schleswig-Holstein, welcomed the fact that the scientists support the KMK in its efforts "to enable as much normality as possible for the students.