Keep kindergartens open, German minister says, as country battles COVID-19

BERLIN, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Germany’s family minister said on Friday the country should do everything possible to keep kindergartens open even as coronavirus infections increase, saying pre-school aged children do not play a role in spreading the illness.

“Children are not sources of infection, children are not drivers of infection,” Franziska Giffey said, adding it was essential to keep kindergartens operating as normal.

Less than 1% of day-care facilities have had to close as a result of a coronavirus outbreak since March 2020, she added.

Giffey presented a study showing that up to the end of September, there were 79 outbreaks of the coronavirus in Germany’s more than 56,000 day care centres.

Of the 381 cases reported in those outbreaks to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, less than a third were among those aged between 0-5, while more than two-thirds were in those aged 15 and older.

As Germany grapples with a second wave of the virus, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said keeping kindergartens and schools open is a priority.

The number of daily reported infections has risen rapidly over the past month, but there have been only around six outbreaks per week in Germany’s kindergartens in the five weeks until Oct. 12, Giffey said.

Germany, like other countries across Europe, is dealing with a sharp rise in coronavirus infections. The RKI reported a daily increase by more than 7,300 new cases on Friday. (Reporting by Caroline Copley Editing by Frances Kerry)