Authorities sent home primary school children in the southwestern German town of Bruchsal after it emerged that their teacher turned out to be infected with COVID-19.
The pupils brought a note from the local health authority ordering the parents not only to make sure the children wore a mask at home but also to be completely isolated from other family members for the two-week quarantine period, including mealtimes.
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If parents were found to disobey these orders, the children could be forcibly removed by authorities and quarantined in an isolation facility.
Similar messages were sent to parents in Offenbach, near Frankfurt, which urged parents to isolate children ages 3 to 11 in separate rooms. The NGO “Families in crisis” posted the letters on twitter.
“Families in Crisis” spokesperson Diane Siegloch said the order amounted to “cruelty” and a “threat to the wellbeing of children.”
She pointed to regulations in Denmark, where parents were explicitly encouraged to have physical contact with their children, to hold and hug them for comfort during quarantine times.
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The head of the children’s protection agency (Kinderschutzbund,) Heinz Hilgers, wrote that these orders were “disproportionate and unacceptable” and that regular quarantine requirements put families into a difficult situation anyway.
He expressed alarm over the threat to remove children from their families and urged authorities to put the children’s interests first. “The parents can and should be included in any coronavirus quarantine measures affecting their children,” he wrote.
Parents took to twitter to express their discontent. “So I will be forced to send my children to school, but if one of them catches the coronavirus there, I have to completely isolate it at home, or risk having it taken from me?” a user wrote.
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The health office in Offenbach reacted to the mounting outrage stressing the need to prevent the spread of the virus. “Obviously parents may still look after their children,” the press release reads. “It is necessary to find realistic ways to ensure this. For example, it is preferable to minimize contact among siblings as much as possible.”