Second wave: the controversy over schools

With rising infection rates and the uncontrolled spread of coronavirus in some parts of Europe, the calls for schools to close are growing louder once more. Unlike in the spring, many governments wanted to keep educational institutions open as far as possible to avoid negative consequences for children and teenagers. But how long can this policy be sustained?

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Die Presse (AT) /

There has to be a middle course

School closures slow down the spread of the virus but they also slow down the learning process, Die Presse stresses:

“From a purely epidemiological viewpoint school closures are an effective containment measure: hundreds of thousands of humans are taken out of circulation all at a single blow - teachers, pupils, their parents, who must then really stay at home. For a government, this is a tempting opportunity to bring the pandemic under control as quickly as possible. ... But apart from epidemiological criteria, there are also other criteria - specifically education and social life. The learning process undoubtedly works better at school, and daily contact with other children is just as desirable. ... Perhaps, in the interest of the children, the parents, and the companies employing them, we should try using softer measures once more and let at least the elementary schools remain open.”

Denik (CZ) /

Good reasons on both sides

Schools in the Czech Republic are currently closed, but many are calling for them to reopen as soon as possible. Deník comments:

“Schools now have the experience and means to counter the risk of infection. Pupils could wear masks during lessons and in the school's communal spaces. Schools can be effectively disinfected. The children can also learn in smaller groups. ... One argument against opening up the schools is that in September this was proven to be one of the reasons why the second coronavirus wave has taken on such frightening proportions. ... Even if hygiene at schools were much stricter today: children can still be infected with the virus without infecting each other. But they can transmit the disease to their parents and grandparents.”

Lrytas (LT) /

Unimaginative and irresponsible

in a guest commentary in Lrytas, teacher Aivaras Dočkus is outraged by the fact that there are no standardised rules for schools in Lithuania:

“It's disappointing that in this dire situation the prime minister, the health and education ministers and the government as a whole are shirking their responsibility and passing the buck to municipalities and schools, which must now decide for themselves which measures to take. ... Currently, apart from distance learning no real measures have been taken. ... What's most disappointing is that often people just choose the first thing that comes to mind. Or what's socially acceptable and goes down well in the media. It's disappointing to see the advice of epidemiologists being interpreted as people see fit, often depending on finances and capabilities they may (or may not) have.”