Before the end of the pool tests in kindergartens City of Bonn wants to continue testing kindergarten children

Bonn · Even if the city of Bonn again extends the deadline on its own initiative, the era of nationwide Coronavirus tests in kindergartens will soon be over. Opinions differ on the return to normality

 A kindergarten child puts their lollipop test in a bowl at the entrance to the kindergarten. Photo: dpa/Peter Kneffel

A kindergarten child puts their lollipop test in a bowl at the entrance to the kindergarten. Photo: dpa/Peter Kneffel

Foto: dpa/Peter Kneffel

This step in lifting restrictions was too soon for Bonn. The city administration will continue along a course of its own with pool tests for all Bonn kindergartens at least for the month of April, after the state government announced last week that these would stop on 3 April. "At the beginning of April, the crisis team will decide how to proceed with the tests in the day-care centres," explains Marc Hoffmann from the Bonn press office.

The city will have to bear the costs for this service itself in April. The costs are expected to be around 150,000 euros, says Hoffmann. At the beginning of April, the crisis team will discuss how to proceed from May onward. There are not too many alternatives, such as switching to the more unreliable rapid tests or dispensing with tests altogether. The city had also gone beyond the national regulations in other respects, such as the compulsory wearing of masks in class in late summer.

Stamp: Pool tests lead to unnecessary quarantines

Meanwhile, Deputy State Premier Joachim Stamp has reaffirmed his decision. "Scientists and paediatricians have explicitly called on us to end this form of testing and also the testing without any reason in general," he told the General-Anzeiger on Thursday. Although PCR pool tests were correct and necessary in the Delta wave, in the Omicron wave they increasingly led "to unnecessary quarantines without really increasing protection. This is what all major scientific organisations are now saying," says Stamp.

Their central argument is that with the Omicron variant and the large number of mild courses, the previously proven testing strategy no longer works: In their view, it should be sufficient for sick people to be responsible and stay at home, as was the practice before the pandemic.

Hendrik Streeck, Director of the Institute for Virology at the University Hospital in Bonn, has for some time been calling for a "move away from testeritis". The member of the Federal Government's expert council advocates that PCR tests should only be used on a symptom-related basis. Streeck told the General-Anzeiger that the tests that are carried out without any indication of illness have also led to a distortion of the incidence figures.

Others including the representatives of paediatricians had already pleaded for the end of tests being done without any reason. One of them, paediatrician Axel Gerschlauer from Bonn, said that we are continuing to see "hardly any situation that differs from normal infection years" and as far as paediatricians are concerned, hardly any children are sick with Coronavirus. Even if the infections are high, this does not reflect the real disease situation with children at all: "If we want to protect children, then it should finally apply again that we talk about disease and not about the fact that a healthy child may be carrying viruses."

First and foremost, it is important for children to maintain their social contacts. In their argumentation, the paediatricians also refer to the mood among the "majority of parents". At the same time, the mood is likely to be differentiated. Recently, there have been discussions about PCR pool tests in particular. This was also the case in Bonn, where parents in some kindergartens had to wait several days for their child's individual result after a positive pool test because labs were overburdened. As a result they had to look after their (healthy) child on their own for a long time.

In any case, such a situation will no longer exist without pool tests. Scepticism is also widespread because it is precisely due to the lack of symptoms that infections remain undetected and the virus can spread within families.

Kindergartens: We have to pay the price

It is precisely this aspect that is the focus of a concern that has been heard unanimously from kindergarten directors in Bonn in recent days. Gabriele Walter, for example, who has been running the Stiftskindergarten near the Beethovenhalle for almost 30 years, has taken careful note of the position of the paediatricians. "It bothers me that we, as those affected, were not asked. In case of doubt, we are the ones who have to pay for the chain of infection," says Walter. The burden of the tests on children can be minimised by dealing with it in the right way, even with humour. Above all, however, the tests would help to detect infections early and to reduce the risk of spreading the virus - for example among parents and grandparents who are already ill. "That’s why I am very happy about the city's decision to extend the tests.”

Her colleague Nathalie Jansen from the Sankt Joseph kindergarten in Bonn-Castell agrees. "We are very much in favour of this decision," she says and adds: "We feel that the pool tests provide a high level of safety both for us as staff and for the families. According to Jansen, the organisation and handling with the contracted laboratory went smoothly, so that the day care centre was open as normal for all children who tested negative the next day. As soon as the numbers go down, she said, it would "certainly be possible for the children to move on to a certain normality in dealing with Coronavirus".

The city administration had announced on Wednesday that 76 educators and 189 kindergarten children were reported as infected in Bonn kindergartens. Both acute illnesses and the quarantine regulations have recently thinned out the staffing levels in the day-care centres to an alarming degree. "Often groups have to close due to a lack of staff. But at the moment there are a lot of children's illnesses on the way anyway," says Corina Schweitzer from Kindergarten Erlöserbund.

A kindergarten teacher in another kindergarten points to a completely different problem: Since the pool tests were voluntary, not all children took part. This alone had caused gaps in the data collection.

Original article: Rüdiger Franz

Translation: Jean Lennox

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