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School starts again on Monday: City tests primary school students for coronavirus

School starts again on Monday : City tests primary school students for coronavirus

On Monday, students are returning to school. Random Covid-19 testing is planned in all city districts in cooperation with the Bonn University Hospital. Before school starts up again, hygiene expert Martin Exner explains how wearing masks correctly can reduce the risk of infection.

With the start of school this Monday, the city will be doing voluntary Covid-19 testing for students and teachers in primary and special needs schools run by the city. In cooperation with Bonn University Hospital (UKB), the random tests will initially be carried out in the coming week at one elementary school per city district and at one special needs school in the city area. An overall strategy for continuing the testing will be outlined in more detail by the administration soon. "I am optimistic that we will be able to say more about this by the end of next week," said city spokeswoman Monika Hörig. 

As Mayor Katja Dörner and Martin Exner, long-time director of the Bonn Institute of Hygiene at the UKB, said at a virtual press conference on Friday, the aim is to gain more knowledge about the way in which infections with coronaviruses occur in schools. So far, Exner stressed, there is no evidence from a scientific perspective "that children are among the drivers of the pandemic.” 

Ahead of Monday's opening of primary and secondary schools, Dörner said, "For many students, parents and teaching staff, this is a cause for joy, but it's also fraught with worry." In addition to alternating-day classes at the elementary schools, students who will graduate this year are also returning to classes with a hygiene protocol in place. There is a question, Dörner said, about whether there is sufficient protection against infection in the schools. She once again emphasized the importance of the so-called AHA rules and addressed the issue of ventilation. With the exception of four rooms in the Friedrich-List-Berufskolleg, which are now equipped with ventilation systems, all of Bonn's school classrooms have windows. 

Exner said that according to scientific evidence and the Federal Environment Agency's assessment, regular intermittent ventilation works best to prevent the accumulation of virus-laden aerosols in the classroom. "Window ventilation remains the priority measure over the use of mobile air purification devices. The outside air is virus-free," Exner said. It also ensures a low concentration of carbon dioxide, he added. Exner: “We want the students to stay alert.” 

The hygiene expert, who has been advising the city since the beginning of the pandemic, also explained the importance of wearing a mask properly: "The medical masks must fit properly around the mouth and nose." This, he said, increases efficacy to 90 percent. He also said it provided protection against infection comparable to vaccination. 

Regarding a possible third wave of infection by coronavirus mutations and the question of how the school openings could be reconciled with that risk, school department head Carolin Krause said, "As a city, we're obviously concerned about that." However, she said, the past has shown that the city's future strategy depends on the state's guidelines. Dörner had already said several times that she would like to see more autonomy of action for the municipalities. The random tests at the schools now served to "gain more certainty”.

Orig. text: Philipp Königs

Translation: ck