Meisch sounds optimistic note over schools after summer
By Madalena Queirós and Heledd Pritchard
Pupils at Luxembourg schools will likely not have to wear a mask when they return to class in September, Education Minister Claude Meisch said on Wednesday, though he will only make a final decision about pandemic measures towards the end of the summer holidays.
Schools will be prepared in case a fourth coronavirus wave or a new variant hits in the coming months, Meisch told the Contacto newspaper in an interview, saying he would rework earlier scenarios of what measures to take in case just one pupil or more than one were infected in a class.
Meisch - subject to earlier criticism from parents and teachers he had painted a too rosy picture of the situation at schools during the pandemic - said he hoped that the start of the next school year will be “as normal as possible” and that there would be no need for pupils to wear a mask, particularly as more than half of secondary pupils will be fully vaccinated by then.
“I hope it will be as normal as possible,” he said. “But we will be ready in case it is necessary to react to a fourth wave or a new variant, for example, which is one of the hypotheses we worked on.”
Just before pupils come back, the education and health ministries will make a final decision on which sanitary measures to put in place. They will not make any decisions until then, Meisch said, as the situation could change over the summer months. The number of vaccinated pupils will also be a factor in assessing the next steps. “It is necessary to assess whether there will be new variants that spread faster,” he said. "I hope that the use of a mask will no longer be mandatory ... there will certainly be some sanitary measures, but I hope that the return to school will be as normal as possible.”
Pupils waiting for jab
Two newspapers last year revealed factual errors and other shortcomings in reports from Meisch's ministry, suggesting government claims that schools play a small role in the spread of Covid-19 may have been overly rosy.
Meisch then launched a blistering attack on the Luxemburger Wort newspaper, over its coverage of Covid-19 infections in schools, which the newspaper's editor-in-chief Roland Arens called “outrageous and unacceptable”.
Schools across the country were forced to shut last year when the pandemic hit and pupils tuned in to lessons online. Since classrooms have re-opened, pupils have had to wear masks. At the end of last month, Luxembourg started offering a vaccine against Covid-19 to teenagers aged between 12 and 17.
Half of all secondary school pupils have already signed up, Meisch said, making him confident they will be fully vaccinated by the time they return to school.
A total of 241 primary and secondary pupils tested positive during the last week of this school year and 226 during the first week of July.