Go to contents

European countries re-open schools

Posted April. 16, 2020 07:47,   

Updated April. 16, 2020 07:47


Parents in Denmark are opposing to the government's decision to re-open schools on Wednesday after closing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Other European countries are taking similar steps to re-open schools as the first step to gradually relieve lock-down measures, which is expected to increase disputes between the government and parents.

Bloomberg and other media outlets reported that the Danish government re-opened children's daycare, kindergartens and elementary schools, after 34 days of closing down all schools across the country on March 11. The junior high and high schools will also open on May 10. The government plans to gradually lift lock-down measures such as re-opening offices and revert lock-down if confirmed cases arise again. The measure is applied based on a forecast that GDP would be reduced around 6% if lock-down further remains in place.

Parents argued that re-opening schools should not be the first to lift lock-down measures. The number of accumulated confirmed cases in Denmark reached 6,511 and the death toll 300 as of Wednesday. Parents are concerned that their children may be exposed to infection when it is still unclear whether the spread of the virus has peaked or not.

France is taking similar measures as well. French President Emmanuel Macron announced on a televised address to the people on Monday that the government will "extend the lock-down until May 11, when schools and children's day care centers will re-open, though subject to change." When parents expressed concerns on this, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer explained that "further decisions will be made over the next two weeks, after taking additional measures such as distributing masks to students and teachers."

With the exception of Sweden, 26 out of the 27 EU member states have been closing down schools. A survey by the EU showed that six or seven countries are planning to open schools within this month while around eight nations will be doing so next month. The subject of schools re-opening is likely to be disputed throughout the EU. Parents' concerns have recently surged following recent deaths of teenagers; a 13-year-old boy in the UK, a 16-year-old girl in France and a 12-year-old girl in Belgium.

Even experts are yet divided on the issue. Researchers at the University College of London issued the results of a study that showed that closing of schools had little effect on containing the spread of the virus, based on previous epidemic cases. Some point out that the educational void and widening education parity between social classes were more serious issues.

On the other hand, a thesis published on international journal 'BMC Infectious Disease' in 2016 claimed that the close down of schools during the spread of H1NH in 2009 showed that the incidence rate went down more than 50%. The New York Times reported that "the easing of lock-down measures in some European countries will provide an early litmus test to other countries.”

Youn-Jong Kim zozo@donga.com