Berlin education administration continues to reject mandatory testing in daycare centers

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Fri 19th Nov, 2021

Despite the high incidence and calls for better protection for children against Covid 19 disease, the Berlin education administration of Senator Sandra Scheeres (SPD) still does not want to introduce mandatory testing in Berlin daycare centers. This is not supported by a "relevant part of the parents as well as the institutions," spokesman Ralph Kotsch told the German Press Agency.

Kotsch referred to an assessment by the administration based on surveys during a pilot study in 30 daycare centers. In Berlin, nearly 170,000 children are cared for in about 2700 daycare centers. Health Senator Dilek Kalyci (SPD) did not want to take a position on the issue. A spokesperson referred to the education administration.While tests for school children have been made compulsory across the board, Berlin is relying on voluntary testing by parents in daycare centers. For months, the state's Kita parents' committee has been calling for mandatory testing across the board for daycare children as well. "We need to protect children better. The tools are there and we should use them. Testing is the only thing that can be done," says vice chairwoman Anja Kettgen-Hahn. After all, children under the age of twelve cannot yet be vaccinated.

Experts at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recommend consistent systematic serial testing as a protective measure against infection. Age-appropriate testing concepts are often insufficiently introduced by the federal states, especially in daycare centers, according to a report.

Severe disease progression, deaths, and long-term consequences could also occur in children after covid-19 disease. However, the extent of the health consequences cannot yet be clearly assessed, he said. "Until this important question is clarified, children should not be unnecessarily exposed to the risk of infection," the experts write.

The seven-day incidence in Berlin is 207 among 0- to 4-year-olds and 996.8 among 5- to 9-year-olds, but according to the RKI, "major under-reporting" must be assumed because of the lack of mandatory testing among 0- to 4-year-olds."Quite deliberately, the Berlin Senate is risking the health of our children and the free life in our city," criticizes the education policy spokesman of the CDU faction in the House of Representatives, Dirk Stettner. The faction had requested in August to introduce lollipop tests in all daycare centers and schools.

Lollipop tests involve children and adults each sucking on a swab like a lollipop. The swabs are then placed together in a sample tube, which is examined in the laboratory using the PCR method. If the result is positive, those involved must be tested again to find out exactly who is infected.

In the summer, the Senate had launched a pilot project. The "Oase" daycare center in Prenzlauer Berg was also involved. The majority of parents decided to continue to have their children tested at their own expense, reports director Kathrin Hinz.

"The lollipop tests are much more reliable than the antigen tests," Hinz says. Parents of 75 of the 87 children participated, according to the report. A fund has been set up for parents who cannot pay the five euros for two tests a week. For her and her colleagues, the tests offer much more security, says Hinz. But in her view, mandatory testing for all would be even better. "Then we would have the clarity that is lacking now." Unfortunately, Hinz laments, daycare children are a group that is not talked about at all.

From the education administration comes no prospect of lollipop tests for all: "The evaluations of the model project so far indicate that the introduction of such a procedure is associated with considerable organizational, logistical and legal requirements," says the spokesman.

According to Kathrin Hinz, the tests are uncomplicated, there have been no teething problems and most children can perform the Lolli test independently. In the RKI report, lollipop pool PCR tests are explicitly recommended for daycare centers - just like CO2 traffic lights that indicate when a daycare room needs to be ventilated again.

The state association of the Workers' Welfare Association in Brandenburg is also calling for mandatory testing of daycare centers. The Berlin association is also open to mandatory testing of children in daycare centers, said spokesman Markus Galle. However, "considerable organizational and logistical challenges" are expected. "Definitely, however, we prefer a testing obligation, however, organized, to a general Kita closure," Markus Galle said.

"At the very least, it must be possible for everyone to be tested in the event of an infection occurring before they return to the daycare center the next day. We, therefore, appeal to parents to make use of this offer," emphasizes Dorothee Thielen, chairwoman of the specialist committee for daycare for children of the Berlin League and the umbrella organization of Berlin's children's and school stores.

Theoretically, this is also possible. Berlin daycare centers receive rapid antigen tests from the education administration, which should allow two tests per child per week. "But the question is: Do all parents also test their children if it is voluntary and the nasal swab tests are not suitable for children? Or does the Senate have to introduce mandatory lollipop testing here to protect children?" said Anja Kettgen-Hahn.

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