German schools phase out mandatory Covid tests for pupils

It was one of the last major Covid measures in Germany, but now compulsory antigen tests have been dropped at schools in most parts of the country.

German schools phase out mandatory Covid tests for pupils
A pupil holds his negative test during a trial run with Corona rapid tests at the elementary school in Köllnische Heide in Berlin-Neukölln. Photo: Christoph Soeder/dpa

A DPA survey published on Sunday has revealed that the testing obligation has already been abolished or will end on Monday 25th April in six states, and it will expire by the end of the month in a further six of the 16 federal states.

Thuringia will keep testing school children until May 6th, while Berlin plans to keep testing “until further notice.” No decisions have yet been made in Hamburg and Saarland on how to handle testing as of May.

Education unions and the German Teachers’ Association have criticised the end of mandatory testing. Heinz-Peter Meidinger of the Teachers’ Association told DPA that, “we are confronted with the justified concern of families who have high-risk individuals and sick children in their own households.”

He added that the removal of all health protections would also come at the expense of graduating students who feared missing exams or having to take exams at a later date because of an infection.

According to Meidinger, many high school graduates are currently staying at home as a precaution and skipping classes “because health protection at schools has now been reduced to zero in many cases.”

The deputy chairman of the trade union for education and science (GEW), Andreas Keller, called it “negligent” to end testing so soon after mask wearing was abandoned.

“This is the last effective preventative measure that contributes to protecting the health of employees, students and their parents. The pandemic is not over,” Keller said. “Ending all protective measures is playing with fire that could fall on schools’ feet with the next wave.”

The chairman of the Association for Education and Training (VBE), Udo Beckmann, said that those who want to enable continuous school operation when the incidence of infection is still high, must carefully consider whether now is the right time to dispense with preventative measure tests and masks altogether.

At the beginning of the month, the mask requirement had been abolished at most schools, in line with the requirements of the Infection Protection Act.

While mandatory testing at schools is still legally possible throughout Germany, most of the federal states have dispensed with them. Instead, voluntary and occasion-related tests will be offered in the future, such as in the event of symptoms or if a class trip is imminent.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister under fire for Covid ‘killer variant’ warning

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Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

With the EU changing its Covid recommendations for flights, there is some confusion around whether people boarding a plane in Germany will still need to wear a mask. Here's what we know so far.

Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

As of Monday, the aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC no longer recommend mandatory Covid masks in airports and on planes.

However, if masks are compulsory at the point of departure or destination, this should continue to apply in aircraft as well, they say.

So, what does this mean for passengers boarding flights in Germany? At the moment, not very much at all. 

In Germany, the Infection Protection Act still stipulates that masks have to be worn on long-distance trains and planes. Masks are also compulsory on local public transport.

The previous weeks have seen Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) come out in favour of scrapping compulsory masks – especially on flights.

But so far, nothing concrete has been done to change the Infection Protection Act, which is due to expire on September 23rd. 

READ ALSO: German politicians row over lifting mandatory Covid mask rule

What are the current rules on flights? 

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, masks are compulsory on all flights taking off or landing in Germany.

FFP2 or medical masks must be worn when boarding and disembarking and throughout the flight, though they can be removed when eating and drinking.

Children under the age of six are exempt from the mask-wearing requirement. 

The ministry has argued that the obligation to wear masks also complies with the new EU recommendations. 

What are the rules acros the EU? 

In general, the relaxed EU recommendation does not mean that masks are no longer compulsory on all flights. However, many countries have kept this measure in place as a simple way to reduce infection. 

Europe’s largest low-cost airline, Ryanair, published a list of 14 EU countries in which national laws continue to require the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of Covid.

Besides Germany, popular tourist destinations such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France are included on the list. 

In other EU countries, the airline said it would be dropping mandatory masks on flights, adding that it “welcomed” the relaxed recommendations from the EU health authorities.  

READ ALSO: Will Germany soon get rid of mandatory face masks on public transport?