Covid rules are set to be relaxed for pupils in Lower Saxony in the coming weeks and months.
In a phased plan, both the daily compulsory testing and the compulsory wearing of masks in class are to be abolished, the state government announced on Thursday.
“We are making everyday school life easier, but without throwing safety out of the window,” said education minister Grant Hendrik Tonne (SPD).
From March 7th onwards, compulsory testing for pupils is to be reduced to three tests per week instead of five, with the exception of the first week and a half after the Easter holidays, when the usual daily tests will be carried out.
By the beginning of May, compulsory testing will be completely abolished.
In day-care centres, compulsory testing will continue until March 20th, after which it will be extended or abolished.
Compulsory tests in nurseries came into force in Lower Saxony just a few days ago. Under the new rules, children from the age of three must test negative three times a week in order to be able to go to their daycare centre.
From March 21st, pupils in primary and special-needs schools will be allowed to dispense with masks indoors, with other schoolchildren following suit by the beginning of May.
However, pupils can continue to wear a mask beyond that date if they wish.
It is unclear at present whether other states are planning to end testing and masks in schools, but the move appears to have the cautious support of the federal government.
On Thursday afternoon, Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger spoke out in favour of a careful lifting of Covid measures in schools.
“Relaxations in schools must come,” the FDP politician told the DPA. “But we should be cautious so as not to jeopardise classroom teaching by increasing infection figures.”
In her opinion, rules should relaxed if regional infections are dropping and vaccination rates in the area are high.
“This involves, for example, reduced testing and the removal of masks,” she said. “We need to pave the way back to normality for children.”
But Stark-Watzinger also called for precautions for the new school year.
Accessible vaccination offers at schools are also needed in spring and summer, she said, adding that the digitisation of schools needed to be urgently accelerated.