The German health minister on Friday recommended that Germans still wear masks in public places indoors, although for the time being this would be on a voluntary basis.
However, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the country should be preparing again for stricter coronavirus rules as the winter months approach.
What exactly did he say?
Lauterbach said the country should adopt new rules for the winter period, comparing it to adopting “winter tires” instead of summer ones.
This reference is to a law that requires motorists to drive with special winter tires in the period from October to Easter. The move came in response to a report on Germany’s website world on Sunday newspaper. He said the government was considering a rule that would make it mandatory to wear masks indoors in public places at the same time.
And while he conceded that current infection data does not currently justify a legal obligation to use the mask, Lauterbach – himself an experienced epidemiologist – said it makes sense in the meantime to continue wearing masks indoors.
“This has to be a norm,” he said.
Before coronavirus regulations were relaxed in Germany earlier this year, it was mandatory to wear brands in indoor public places like supermarkets. People using public transport are still required by law to cover their mouths and noses.
Don’t panic, but a little bit of caution
Germany is currently experiencing an expected “summer wave” of coronavirus infections.
Lauterbach said that while there is no need to panic, he stressed that the virus still poses a deadly risk to some, also bringing with it the danger of a lengthy COVID for the general population.
“We have the situation well under control at the moment, but not resolved. We must not panic about the summer surge.”
The minister said experts are less concerned than they might be because the dominant variant of omcron usually follows a less damaging path than, for example, the delta strain. Many in Germany have also been vaccinated or recovered from the BA.2 type of virus, which means they are relatively well protected.
However, people infected with the first version of omicron may still be vulnerable to reinfection with later versions of the variant, even if they have been vaccinated and boosted, new findings, which have been published in the international weekly magazine. Naturesuggested Friday.
Germany recently reported between 50 and 130 coronavirus-related deaths per day.
Meanwhile, around 80% of people over 60, still deemed vulnerable, have not received a second booster dose.
Lauterbach urged them, along with people who have a high level of contact with other people, to do so.
List of actions ahead of the colder months
The minister highlighted seven measures that the government would take to prepare for the coming winter months. These were:
- Preparation for an immunization campaign with three different vaccines available
- Review of provision of free coronavirus tests for citizens and residents
- Improve the delivery and targeting of treatments that have been shown to be effective against COVID infections
- Improve hygiene arrangements in places where vulnerable people live, such as nursing homes
- Providing the most up-to-date electronic data on ICU beds free of charge
- Review of hygiene and contact measures in schools and daycare centers to reduce the need for closures
- A revision of the German Infection Protection Act well ahead of its deadline on 23 September
German municipal leaders have urged the government to contain the summer wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Markus Lewe, head of the Association of German Cities, told media group Funke newspapers that a new infection protection law was needed before parliament dissolved for the summer.
He said it was becoming clear that the current legal measures weren’t enough. “The coronavirus pandemic must not continue to surprise us,” she said.
In its latest figures, the German Robert Koch Institute for Disease Control on Friday said the incidence rate over the past seven days was 427.8. This was lower than the previous day’s (480), but significantly higher than last Friday’s seven-day figure of 318.7.
ar, rc / aw, jsi (dpa, epd, Reuters, AP)