Close, open, close again - this is currently how it works in numerous German regions when it comes to classroom teaching in schools.
Because the recently adopted federal emergency brake forces the facilities to close with an incidence value of 165 or more.
This presents parents - once again - with major challenges.
For more than a year now, they have had to take care of childcare options at short notice.
How much closed schools and day-care centers affect women in particular is now shown by an evaluation by the Barmer health insurance company on children's sickness benefits, which is available to WELT.
Parents can apply for the money if they have to look after their children at home due to the pandemic.
In the first quarter of this year, mothers insured with Barmer used child sickness benefits on around 103,000 days, and fathers only on around 45,000 days, because facilities were closed - not even half as often as mothers.
“Our current evaluation shows that women bear the brunt of caring for the children,” says Barmer's CEO, Christoph Straub.
"You mainly stay at home to look after school and day-care children." The pandemic once again made the imbalance in many families clear.
Source: WORLD infographic
The dilemma: The instrument has become an important financial crisis helper for parents, as Barmer's figures also show.
“The child sickness benefit arrives.
There is strong demand, ”says Straub.
And that's a good thing, after all, parents have to be supported in these times.
Compared to previous years, usage has increased significantly.
While Barmer insured persons claimed a total of around 259,000 child sickness benefit days in the first quarter of 2019 and 2020, this year it was 355,000 days.
In addition, cases in which parents claimed the money for actually sick children have decreased at the same time.
The distance rules and the wearing of masks in the corona pandemic are also likely to have led to fewer cases of illness among children, for example due to flu.
Child sickness benefit is intended to enable working parents to compensate for lost wages by caring for a sick child.
You will also receive reimbursement during the pandemic if the child is not sick but you have to look after it at home because schools and daycare centers are closed.
This applies, for example, when the compulsory attendance has been lifted or individual classes and groups are in quarantine.
Entitlement to child sickness benefit extended again
It can be used by legally insured parents who are entitled to sickness benefit themselves and whose child is under twelve - provided that there is no other person in the household who can look after the child. The federal government recently clarified once again that there is a claim regardless of whether the work can generally also be performed in the home office. The child sickness benefit is usually 90 percent of the lost net wage, but no more than 112.88 euros per day.
It was only on Friday that the federal government extended the entitlement to child sickness benefits again.
Parents with statutory insurance can in future use it for ten additional working days, single parents for a further 20 days.
This results in a total entitlement to child sickness benefit per parent of 30 days for 2021 and 60 days for single parents.
If there are several children, a maximum of 65 days applies, for single parents a maximum of 130 days.
There is no legal entitlement to have any remaining child sickness allowance days override to the partner.
However, this is possible if the employer of the parent who has already exhausted the days agrees.
And so this too could lead to women using the reimbursement service significantly more often than men.
Scientists have recently drawn attention to the fact that the consequences of the corona pandemic are primarily disadvantageous to women.
"Women reduced their working hours more often because of childcare, while men worked shorter due to short-time work or other operational measures to contain the virus," said a report by the Institute for Economic and Social Sciences (WSI) of the union-affiliated Hans Böckler Foundation from March .
Crisis could exacerbate inequalities
The gap between women in average working hours, the so-called gender time gap, is increasing due to the pandemic, the foundation continues. At the time when schools and day-care centers were largely closed in April, around 24 percent of working mothers said they had reduced their working hours because of the children; among fathers it was around 16 percent.
The danger from the point of view of the scientists: some of these reductions in working hours could persist even after the end of the crisis if employers are not interested in an increase.
"Overall, there is a lot to suggest that the inequality structures that existed before the crisis will worsen during the crisis and thus lead to growing inequality between the sexes in the long term if countermeasures are not taken in good time," explains Bettina Kohlrausch, Scientific Director of the WSI .
The Barmer assumes that the child sickness benefit will still be used heavily in the near future.
"That will only subside when the vaccination campaign has progressed so far that the number of Covid-19 infections drops sustainably," says Barmer boss Straub.
A look at the number of infections should confirm this trend. On Sunday 197 of a total of 412 cities and municipalities tore a seven-day incidence of 165. Schools must be closed above this limit. This is what the nationwide “emergency brake” decided on last week demands. The nationwide incidence has been rising significantly again for almost two weeks. The value indicates how many people out of 100,000 inhabitants have been infected with the corona virus in the past seven days.
According to the Barmer figures, child sickness benefits are also used to a similar extent nationwide. "The pandemic-related child sickness benefit is called up in all regions in Germany," says Straub. Most of the approvals were given by the health insurance company in the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, followed by Bavaria and Lower Saxony. The fewest applications were received in Bremen, Saarland and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
However, the numbers of the insurers differ greatly: While the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) and the Handelskrankenkasse (HKK) recently reported strong demand for children's sickness benefits in the first quarter, the DAK believes that only a few applications have been made since the beginning of the year. Most recently, the number of applications there actually fell. "In the past few weeks we have noticed a downward trend in both child health benefit applications related to cases of illness and child health benefit applications in the context of pandemic-related care cases," the health insurance company said.