Cabinet to decide today if schools will reopen next week
The Cabinet will decide on Monday if children will be allowed to return to school next week. The Cabinet last month ordered all primary and secondary schools to close one week before the Christmas holidays due to the rapid emergence of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The schools will remain closed until at least Sunday, January 9, the last day of the scheduled winter vacation period. During the A decision must now be made about the period after that. “We are asking schools to prepare for distance education after the Christmas holidays. There will be clarity about this on January 3,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during the December 18 press conference during which the lockdown was announced.
During that press conference, RIVM director Jaap van Dissel also predicted that the Omicron variant would become dominant in the Netherlands before 2021 concluded, something which happened a bit earlier than the healthcare experts predicted.
After weeks of declining figures, coronavirus infections rose quickly last week, potentially marking the start of a new wave of infections even before the last wave subsided. An average of 14,500 people tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus each of the past seven days, 18 percent higher compared to a week ago. In previous waves, schools were a common source of infection. While the Omicron variant is more contagious than the Delta variant, it is unclear of the new variant is as pathogenic.
The Cabinet is being pressured from all sides to reopen the schools, including from children’s ombudswoman Margrite Kalverboer and from a group of sixty organizations represented by Unicef, Jeugdzorg Nederland and the Dutch mental health care system. "Education is not an on and off switch, not a flashing light. It is an essential part of growing up," Unicef said. Dozens of secondary schools in Amsterdam and Rotterdam also issued similar statements on New Year's Day.
The PO Raad, an association representing many primary schools, and the VO Raad, representing secondary schools, said they are in favor of reopening, but then the safety of teachers must be properly arranged. That is also the view of the education union Teachers in Action.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times