The new infection figures are falling. Now North Rhine-Westphalia is also aiming to re-open daycare centers - but under certain conditions. An overview.
As of February 22, all children in North Rhine-Westphalia will be able to attend daycare centers again. This was announced by NRW Family Minister Joachim Stamp (FDP) in Düsseldorf on Tuesday. However, for the time being, there will be an across-the-board reduction of ten hours of care per week and fixed groups.
In view of falling new infection figures, NRW is thus shortly leaving the path of the previous appeals to parents to look after their children at home if possible, although the daycare centers were open statewide for all those who could not do so for professional or private reasons. This week, that appeal continues to apply, Stamp stressed. There will also be no automatic solution for a regular operation, if the nationwide rate of new infections should still fall this week to under 50 calculated per 100 00 inhabitants within seven days. Stamp also explained his plans in letters to parents and daycare workers.
LOCAL DECISIONS: If the number of new infections continues to fall, daycare center managers and providers will probably be allowed to decide for themselves from March 8 whether they will once again care for children to the full extent. Where it is still necessary to protect against infection on site, facilities will then be allowed to continue to reduce the scope of care by a maximum of ten hours per week, Stamp explained.
However, this reduction would no longer apply across the board in NRW. The regulation will initially apply until Easter. Before this stage comes into force, the development of infections in NRW will first be examined together with daycare providers, parents' associations and trade unions, Stamp explained.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Normal regular business can only be resumed when sufficient Corona self-tests are available for everyone, the employees are vaccinated or the new infection figures are completely low, Stamp explained.
CORONA EMERGENCY STOP: "If, contrary to expectations, there is a surge, we will also completely close daycare centers regionally or statewide," Stamp explained. "In such an emergency, there would then actually also only be very narrowly limited emergency care." If this is only a regional development, he said, it can also be responded to regionally.
SICK CHILDREN: The minister urgently appealed to parents not to send sick children to daycare centers. "If the daycare center managers say the child can't go to daycare in that condition, then it must stay that way," he stressed. "Anyone with a cold doesn't belong in daycare these days."
CHILD CARE DAYS: NRW has launched a state program to ensure that parents who are self-employed or freelance are also entitled to the new additional child care days. The registration portal is being developed, Stamp said. As soon as it is up and running, information will be provided. However, no day will be lost, as the entitlement can be claimed retroactively from January 5, Stamp assured.
CORONA IN KITAS: Nearly 590 Corona infections have been detected among employees in NRW daycare centers since the beginning of the year, according to Stamp. In January, there were 402 infections and in February so far 187. In total, there are about 168,000 employees in daycare centers and in daycare, according to the Family Ministry.
Stamp wrote in a letter to parents that a misinterpretation of health insurance figures had created the impression that the risk of infection was particularly high in daycare centers. However, this is not true. In the numbers of the health insurance companies all sick reports were included, for example because of cough, cold or fever, with which the Kita personnel announced themselves "in exemplary way out of caution" to the physician.
SELF-TESTS: According to Stamp, the state government has launched a Europe-wide tender for millions of Corona self-tests for daycare center employees. Once the approval is there, he said, the order should be placed immediately. Until the certified self-tests are available in sufficient quantities, daycare workers will be able to take a free rapid test twice a week.
VACCINATIONS: Stamps said it would be "a liberating blow for society as a whole" if teachers and educators could be vaccinated earlier. This would be important for the stability of children's development, he said. Pediatricians warned of harm if the lockdown continues. So far, the Standing Commission on Vaccination (Stiko) sees no reason to change the vaccination sequence. However, policymakers could deviate from the Stiko recommendations. According to the current vaccination regulation, educators and teachers have so far been in the third vaccination group. The federal and state governments had agreed to consider upgrading them.
KITA CONTRIBUTIONS: For the time being, parental contributions for daycare centers will continue to be charged. However, the state government is examining a retroactive refund, Stamp said. The focus at the moment, however, is on stabilizing the care system with payment for Corona tests, hygiene materials and everyday helpers in the facilities, he said.
REACTIONS: The trade union for employees of the municipalities, the states as well as the privatized service companies, Komba, says the NRW opening plan for daycare centers comes too quickly. The Association for Education and Training also stressed that infection control must be the focus. There should be "no hurdles to reducing the number of hours, if necessary."
The SPD opposition in the Düsseldorf state parliament sees no advantages for parents in Stamp's model. "The withdrawal of the minister's appeal not to take children to daycare primarily means for parents: they can no longer fall back on the additional children's sick days from the time when they do not yet want to take their children back to daycare because of the pandemic," noted the family policy spokesman faction, Dennis Maelzer. These parents would now have to fall back on their own recreational leave and pay daycare contributions at the same time.
(Original text: dpa, Translation: Mareike Graepel)