After a conference call with the heads of the federal states, Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced an extension of contact restrictions in the fight against COVID-19. These restrictions will be extended until May 3. This means that face-to-face teaching in German universities will not begin on 20 April. Schools and universities are set to switch back to in-person classes starting May 4, after the contact restrictions are waived.
While the world continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the question as to when will life return to normal remains. Germany, among other countries, has undertaken many precautionary measures against coronavirus. Shops, bars, restaurants, cinemas, and theatres have been closed in order to prevent the virus from spreading. Educational institutions have also been closed and face-to-face teaching has not yet been advised to begin.
As for the summer term, 20 April will still be the date when universities are to begin their summer semester, however, they will have to continue doing so on a digital basis. Universities have the possibility of switching to in-person teaching on 4 May under a few political conditions. More specifically, priority will be given to final classes as well as those who will take exams next year.
Examinations and laboratory classes which require in-person attendance will also be resumed if hygienic and protective measures against COVID-19 are undertaken. This also includes libraries and archives, for as long as there is a limited number of people in the buildings. The Kultusministerkonferenz (KMK) is expected to develop a strategy by the end of April, in order to create a set of rules on how the social distance is to be maintained when students do go back to school.
Regardless of the fact that most universities may begin face-to-face teaching once May comes, there are also universities that have announced that they will be proceeding with online classes, at least, up until the end of May. Currently, travel restrictions and border controls are still prevalent in Germany and the authorities are advising everyone to respect the social distancing rules so the spread of the virus slows down and the number of infections is kept at a minimum.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of confusion among international students. While being far away from home during a global pandemic can be largely challenging, students have also asked about health insurance policies and whether or not their schemes will cover them in case of infection. While health insurance companies have assured students that coronavirus is covered for policyholders, quarantine costs will not be part of this coverage. (Here’s a FAQs section for international students regarding health insurance in Germany at the time of COVID-19).
There are numerous things German universities can do for students to ensure education is not disrupted and create the necessary hygienic conditions once schools and universities are opened. Students should be kept informed by their respective universities at all times regarding the current situation. Students, like all citizens, should also respect the government regulations and keep themselves and the people around them safe from possible transmission of the virus.
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