Are new COVID restrictions coming to Germany this autumn?
As part of a catalogue of measures to help combat the spread of coronavirus in the autumn and winter, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is apparently planning to make mask wearing compulsory in indoor areas in Germany for six months of the year, according to a newspaper report.
Health Minister unveils seven-point COVID plan
Speaking last Friday, the Federal Health Minister said that Germany needed to prepare for a fresh wave of COVID infections in the colder half of the year, and that going forward a new set of rules would be needed for autumn and winter, just as drivers swap their tyres for winter ones for six months of the year.
His seven-point plan was relatively thin on the details, but included the following elements:
- A new vaccination campaign with three different vaccines
- Changes to the free COVID testing programme
- Improving the supply of medicines shown to be effective against coronavirus
- Improving hygiene concepts in settings like nursing homes
- Creating a better system for sharing data among hospitals on free intensive care beds
- Reducing closures in schools and childcare centres by revising hygiene and contact measures
- Revising the Infection Protection Act well ahead of its September expiry date
New mask rules on the way?
The minister did not comment on claims circulated earlier in the day that the government was planning to make masks compulsory in indoor public spaces like restaurants, bars and shops during the colder months of the year with a so-called “O-bis-O” (Oktober bis Ostern / October to Easter) scheme.
On Friday, Welt reported that the government was considering the possibility on the basis that the number of COVID cases is generally higher during the autumn and winter. Making masks compulsory would also help curb the spread of other lung infections like flu, it was reasoned. Since most COVID restrictions were scrapped at the beginning of April, masks have only been compulsory on public transport and in some settings where vulnerable people are present, like hospitals and nursing homes.
Government to unveil new Infection Protection Act next month
The government’s Infection Protection Act - which forms the basis for these rules - is due to expire in September, and so the new seven-point plan is being prepared as its replacement. However, the government has so far refused to officially comment on speculation about the six-monthly mask-wearing rules.
A scientific health commission has recently been tasked with investigating and informing the government which COVID measures have been most effective at curbing infections, and so the government will likely await their decision before announcing any next steps. Karl Lauterbach has said that the key points of the new Infection Protection Act will be announced before the Bundestag goes into its summer recess in July.
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