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Corona crisis staff calls for voluntary wearing of masks in schools

In its meeting today (November 5, 2021), the crisis team of the city of Bonn discussed the lifting of the mask requirement in schools by the state government.

In view of already nationwide increasing numbers of infections with Covid 19, but also of RSV infection (= respiratory syncytial virus, a respiratory disease occurring mainly in children), the crisis team considers the lifting of the mask obligation in schools as not correct and appeals to students to voluntarily wear masks in classrooms.

"From a scientific point of view, the lifting of the mask requirement is not understandable," said Prof. Dr. Nico Mutters, director of the Institute for Hygiene and Public Health at Bonn University Hospital. "We have enough proven, scientific evidence that wearing masks reduces infections. They are a very effective protection against infections from close-range contacts." For Prof. Mutters, the already rising infection figures in southern Germany in particular are a clear indication that rising infection figures are also to be expected in North Rhine-Westphalia and thus also in Bonn. Already now the numbers of respiratory infections (RSV infections) are increasing significantly. The German Association of Towns and Cities in North Rhine-Westphalia (Deutscher Städtetag NRW) has spoken out against the lifting of the mask requirement and fears that classes and afternoon supervision without masks will lead to significantly more quarantine cases among students and teaching staff. However, the state government has rejected requests from individual schools and municipalities to maintain the current mask requirement in schools. Mayor Katja Dörner summarized the decision of the crisis team in Bonn: "We want masks to be worn in schools."

In the crisis team, Lutz Leide, head of the municipal building management, informed about the currently known delivery time of the ordered air filter devices for schools: "Our contractor has been informed by the device manufacturer that he can expect a first delivery at the end of the year at the earliest, so that the devices can probably only be installed in the schools at the beginning of next year."

The crisis team also looked at sporadic donations of equipment offered to schools. The crisis team reiterated the decision that air filtration units will only be purchased for classrooms that cannot be adequately ventilated, i.e., where windows or skylights cannot be tilted.  According to a classification by the German Federal Environmental Agency, such classrooms belong to category 2. The equipment donations offered, however, concern classrooms that can be ventilated well. 

Prof. em. Dr. Martin Exner, president of the German Society for Hospital Hygiene and former head of the Hygiene Institute at the University Hospital Bonn and thus predecessor of Prof. Dr. Mutters, once again pointed out that the crisis team of the city of Bonn had always decided on the basis of scientific findings and the recommendations of the Federal Environment Agency. "We achieve effective protection against infection primarily by consistently wearing masks, especially indoors, by keeping our distance, and by ensuring an adequate supply of fresh air." The largest outbreak at a KiTa, with 16 illnesses among children and staff, occurred at a KiTa in Bonn that had three mobile air filtration units. 

The installation of private devices does not guarantee that these devices are professionally installed and maintained, there is rather the danger that they lull into a false sense of security and that the necessary ventilation is dispensed with," says Lutz Leide.

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