Buses are full, free time activities are hard to plan A difficult time for Bonn’s youth during the pandemic
Bonn · Young people are happy to be able to go to school again and participate in sports with their friends despite the high incidence rates. What is problematic from their point of view is the jam-packed buses and trams.
In Bonn, too, the seven-day incidence has risen sharply in children and adolescents due to the Omicron variant. Because more and more students are having to quarantine as a result, some teachers are switching to hybrid teaching. Meanwhile, students criticize that buses and trams are full. Free time activities are also difficult to organize: participating in sports clubs is often the only way to get out and do something.
Every morning, Max takes the bus from his parents' house in Alt-Tannenbusch to Magdalenenplatz. The 17-year-old has received two jabs and will soon get a booster shot, but he does not take lightly the possibility of getting Covid-19. Because of rising incidences, he has completely change his routine to get to Karl Simrock School: "Now I always take a bus earlier. It's not as crowded as the one I usually take," he explains. He is now at the bus stop at 6:47 a.m. and arrives at school shortly before half past seven. School starts at 8 a.m.. "The buses I've ridden so far are always jam-packed." Keeping a distance is hardly possible, he says. "Some passengers don't wear their masks properly either," he has observed, "but that's not us students, rather older passengers." He is glad to be able to go to school regularly again. "However, I believe that at the moment, alternate classes would be better for everyone.”
Thousands of students on the trams
At the Chlodwigplatz stop, the trams spit out thousands of young people in the morning. Nearby are the Robert-Wetzlar and Ludwig-Erhard vocational colleges with 2,100 and 3,200 students respectively. Birgit Hufnagel, head of the Robert-Wetzlar-Kolleg, is glad that the student body is spread out widely on her school grounds due to construction work - some are even being taught in container classrooms. Many are also accommodated in buildings in Röttgen and Beuel. The majority of the students rely on local transportation, she says. Every day, she hears complaints about crowded buses and trams. Vera Wethkamp, who is vice principal at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Gymnasium in Weststadt, has so far noticed little of this. "There are also many more coming by bike since Corona." At her school, too, the infection numbers have picked up significantly. There are currently 17 cases, she said. She has offered hybrid classes to one high school student who is in quarantine. "It's especially important for high school students to stay current.”
SWB public transport workers do more checking for rule compliance
"We need concrete information about overcrowded buses and trains. In these cases, we then send additional vehicles on the corresponding routes," says SWB spokeswoman Stefanie Zießnitz. At present, SWB has increased service on 28 routes at school start and end times, she said. Regarding the criticism about checking passengers, she explains that during three days of increased checks, about 1,450 passengers were checked and 30 violations of the 3G rule were found. Since January 3, SWB has been allowed to use additional external personnel for the checks. Since then, there have been just under 400 violations found.
Students feel lucky to have sports so they can meet up with friends
School is one thing - free time is another. Werner Fuchs has come up with some rules for his ten- and 13-year-old daughters. "For example, they no longer drink from a bottle with others," he says. The younger one is going back to gymnastics, after having spent last year in front of the computer. The older one attends a hip-hop dance class. The children do not have to wear masks during sports, but it is important to keep as much distance as possible. An additional Covid test is not required. "Tests are taken in class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and they are also valid during free time," says Fuchs.
That's about how often 18-year-old law student Hannah Schröder goes to a testing center. In her circle of friends, the rule of thumb of always taking a test when you're meeting up with more than one friend has proven effective. "I'm boosted, though, so I don't have to show a test even when I'm doing sports," she says. In her carnival dance group, however, everyone gets tested, out of caution and consideration for one another. While they mostly trained outside during the warmer months, the group now meets indoors again. Those are also the only times she gets together with many people. She has been at university in Bonn since October, and she can do little to nothing with fellow students. "I don't have the opportunity to meet many new people at all. I'm happy when I see anyone at all, whether at classroom sessions or in the university library."
“The basic mood is very gloomy.”
Filip Dickebohm, who coaches the U17 team of Bonner SC, says that sports not only involve physical aspects, but also important social and psychological ones. "I've never had so many guys quit during the season. The basic mood is very gloomy." As a competitive team, the youngsters train four times a week, and they have matches. Most are vaccinated, some are not. "The latter are not allowed to participate, which is bad for team spirit." Almost everything is reduced to sports. The locker room is only used quickly for changing, where otherwise people liked to sit together. "The fear of infection is great, especially among the parents."
(Orig. text: Lisa Inhoffen and Nicolas Ottersbach / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)