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Coronavirus pandemic: Germany cautiously reopens schools

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Students in Germany went back to class to take their final exams on Monday as schools that had been shut last month to stem the spread of the coronavirus epidemic began to reopen.

BERLIN – Students in Germany went back

to class to take their final exams on Monday as schools that had

been shut last month to stem the spread of the coronavirus

epidemic began to reopen.

The partial re-opening, agreed last week by Chancellor

Angela Merkel and regional premiers, started with the oldest

students, who will observe strict social distancing as they

write their papers.

“I believe the students are ready for their final exams

now,” said Antje Luekemann, headteacher of Berlin’s Steglitz

High School, where students arrived wearing face masks and

disinfecting their hands with sanitiser before sitting down at

widely spaced school desks.

“The longer the uncertainty lasts, the more difficult it

will be to keep them motivated and that’s why I believe it’s

very important that we received the go-ahead for these exams,”

Luekemann added.

Pupils across the world have been taking their classes over

the internet since governments ordered that schools be closed in

order to slow the transmission of the new-style coronavirus that

has so far killed over 100,000 people around the world.

German authorities last week concluded that social

distancing measures, including shop closures, limits on public

gatherings and widespread home working had succeeded in slowing

the disease’s spread sufficiently to allow limited reopening.

The details of how schools will reopen are up to Germany’s

16 states to decide. In Berlin, 16-year-olds will follow the

19-year-olds back to class a week later, with other age-groups

following in stages over coming months.

Smaller shops also reopened across much of Germany on

Monday, though restaurants, cinemas and large stores will remain

closed.

Germany has the fifth highest Covid-19 caseload behind the

United States, Spain, Italy and France at nearly 142,000 but has

kept fatalities down to a relatively low 4,404 thanks to early

and extensive testing.

“Of course I’m somewhat worried,” Luekemann said. “The more

students there are in the building, the more complicated it gets

to stick to the framework conditions. Ultimately we are talking

about youths here, who might not always be in a position to

evaluate dangers 100%,” she added.