Berlin (dpa) – Teachers and educators should now be able to test themselves for the coronavirus after appropriate training. “Daycares and schools or their suppliers can independently obtain and use rapid tests starting Friday,” said Health Minister Jens Spahn of the Funke media group.
According to his ministry, this is made possible by the recently passed amendments to the Infection Protection Act and an amendment to the Medical Devices Regulation, which will take effect this Friday. Education unions and the German Teachers’ Association welcome the possibility in principle, but are skeptical because no one knows how to implement it in practice or whether there are sufficient tests for it at all.
According to a Ministry of Health spokesperson, the change to the Medical Devices Regulation means that so-called rapid antigen tests can now also be delivered to community facilities such as schools and day care centers. With the amendment to the Infection Protection Act passed in November, the doctor’s reservation for rapid corona tests has also been lifted. In principle, anyone could use these tests, the spokesperson said, but they should be performed by well-trained personnel.
Important questions arise here: who should actually train teachers or nurseries here? When could it start? And how do schools and day care centers get the tests, who should order them and where? These questions have not been answered so far. The specific implementation is the responsibility of the federal states, said the ministry’s spokesman.
The chairman of the German teachers’ association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, was fundamentally open to the test plans. You support the minister’s project, he told the German news agency. “But with two limitations: only for self-tests, no use of teachers for quick tests of students and, second, if the principle of voluntariness is adhered to.”
The Education and Science Union (GEW) views the whole matter with mixed feelings. Spahn’s suggestions could help simplify corona testing, said the DPA’s GEW board members responsible for schools and childcare, Ilka Hoffmann and Björn Köhler. “Free access to the tests, however, is not a substitute for the hygiene and health protection rules recommended by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI),” she added. Tests did not protect against infection.
The union has long advocated that the RKI recommendations be followed in schools, according to which if there is a so-called 7-day incidence of 50 – i.e. 50 and more new infections detected per 100,000 inhabitants within a week in a region – classes and Alternate instruction has been changed. According to a joint decision at the end of November, the federal states will only allow this from an incidence of 200.
RKI chairman Lothar Wieler proposed on Thursday to appoint hygiene employees at the schools who can then take care of such self-tests. “It would be best if a particular teacher were appointed as a hygiene worker, who would of course also receive further training from the local authorities so that these tests can then be used effectively.” That requires some knowledge, but that is really feasible, adds Wieler.
Fact is: Corona rapid tests are also not easy to use. As with conventional PCR tests, a cotton swab must be inserted deep into the nose for a meaningful smear. The sample is then placed in a tube of solution. The liquid is then dripped onto a test kit similar to a pregnancy test. A result is available in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the manufacturer.
The rapid tests are also not as accurate as PCR tests, but according to the Robert Koch Institute are especially reliable when people are in what is called an infectious phase, ie when many viruses are excreted and thus contagious. They are therefore less suitable for the before and after phase, in which there is a corona infection, but hardly any viruses are excreted. A positive rapid test must also be confirmed by a PCR test.
The Association for Education and Education (VBE), which claims to represent more than 160,000 educators as a union, criticized on Thursday that politics raised expectations that schools could not meet because the necessary resources were not available. . Association head Udo Beckmann warned against localizing the procurement of the rapid tests in the schools themselves. “This creates another task for school administrators who already have their hands full.” Taking tests with school children should also not be a task for teachers. “That will meet with enormous resistance.”