German health minister hints at stricter winter rules for COVID News DW

The German health minister on Friday recommended that Germans continue to wear masks in closed public places, although for now this will be voluntary.

However, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the country needs to prepare again for stricter coronavirus rules as the winter months approach.

What exactly did he say?

Lauterbach said the country would have to adopt new rules for the winter, likening it to adopting “winter tires” instead of summer ones.

This is a reference to a law that obliges drivers to drive with special winter tires between October and Easter. The move came in response to a report on the German website world on sunday newspaper. It says the government is considering a rule that makes it mandatory to wear masks indoors in public during the same period.

And while he acknowledged that current data on infections do not justify the use of masks as a legal requirement at the moment, Lauterbach – himself a trained epidemiologist – said it was wise to continue wearing masks indoors in the meantime.

“That should be the norm,” he said.

Before coronavirus regulations in Germany were eased earlier this year, wearing maxis in indoor public places such as supermarkets was mandatory. People who use public transport are still required by law to cover their mouths and noses.

No panic, but a little caution

Germany is currently experiencing an expected “summer wave” of coronavirus infections.

Lauterbach said that although there was no need to panic, he said the virus still posed a deadly risk to some, and also carried with it the danger of prolonged COVID for the general population.

“The situation is well under control at the moment, but it has not been resolved. We do not need to panic about the summer wave.”

The minister said experts were less concerned than they could be, because the dominant variant of omicron is usually less harmful than, for example, the delta strain. Many in Germany have also been vaccinated or have recovered from the BA.2 virus type, which means that they are relatively well protected.

However, those infected with the earliest version of omicron may still be vulnerable to re-infection with later versions of the variant, even if vaccinated and reinforced, new findings published in a weekly international journal natureoffered on Friday.

Germany recently reported between 50 and 130 coronavirus-related deaths a day.

Meanwhile, about 80% of people over the age of 60 still considered vulnerable have not received a second intensive injection.

Lauterbach called on them, along with people who have a high level of contact with other people, to do so.

List of actions before the colder months

The minister pointed out seven measures that the government will take to prepare for the upcoming winter months. These were:

  • Preparation for an immunization campaign with three different vaccines available
  • Review the provision of free coronavirus tests to citizens and residents
  • Improving the supply and targeting of treatments has been shown to be effective against COVID infections
  • Improving the hygiene of places where vulnerable people live, such as nursing homes
  • Providing more up-to-date electronic data on free intensive care beds
  • Review hygiene and contact measures in schools and kindergartens to reduce the need for closure
  • Revision of the German Infection Protection Act long before its expiration on September 23

German municipal leaders have called on the government to control the summer wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Marcus Leve, head of the Association of German Cities, told the Funke media group that a new Infection Protection Act is needed before parliament breaks up over the summer.

He said it was clear that current legal measures were not enough. “The coronavirus pandemic should not continue to surprise us,” he said.

In its latest data, the German Institute for Disease Control Robert Koch said on Friday that the incidence for the last seven days was 427.8. This was lower than the previous day (480), but significantly higher than last Friday’s seven-day figure of 318.7.

ar, rc / aw, jsi (dpa, epd, Reuters, AP)

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