The criticism was sparked by pictures from a government jet Scholz and Economics Minister Robert Habeck used to fly to Montreal this week, dpa news agency reported on Wednesday.
Eighty passengers, including 25 media representatives, were on board the air force Airbus A340 flight to Canada on Sunday.
Pictures show Habeck in close contact with journalists without mouth and nose coverage.
The mask-free passengers did not violate any rules for the flight, the German government has stated.
“There is no mask requirement on air force flights. All travellers must present a recent negative PCR test before boarding. This ensures high-level protection,” a government spokesperson said on Tuesday.
An air force spokesperson elaborated that passengers on this trip were encouraged, not required, to wear a mask, because they were all tested beforehand.
Furthermore, hygiene procedures are highly regulated and constantly updated in light of the current situation.
Scholz responded to the criticism by referring to the “clear rules” for government flights during a press conference in Newfoundland on Tuesday.
Masks were also not mandatory on the Chancellor’s internal government flight to Newfoundland.
On Wednesday, the German Cabinet plans to introduce a new set of Covid-19 safety regulations for the fall. According to the preliminary draft, general mask requirements on planes and long-distance trains nationwide will remain in place.
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the parliamentary vice chairperson of the pro-business Free Democrats, one of the parties in the governing coalition, tweeted on Tuesday that, after seeing the photos, he could not continue to follow mask regulations on “normal” planes.
In response, flag carrier Lufthansa clarified that mask requirements will continue on its flights to and from Germany.
“A negative PCR test does not exempt one from wearing a mask,” Lufthansa tweeted.
Flight crews are required to inform all passengers of the mask obligation, a Lufthansa spokesperson explained. Masks can only be removed briefly, for example for eating and drinking.
The German Foreign Office has not yet changed departmental guidelines for mask-wearing when Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travels.
Every member of the German delegation must wear a mask for all means of public transportation.