COVID measures likely relaxed well before Easter, health minister says
With more and more people adding their voices to the calls for coronavirus measures to be relaxed in Germany, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has said that the timing is still not quite right, but that he can envision the first loosenings taking place “well before Easter."
Germany’s COVID restrictions could be eased before Easter
Speaking to Bild TV, Lauterbach said that he believed that it would be another few weeks before Germany could relax its COVID restrictions: “I think we will loosen up well before Easter,” he said, adding that he was “firmly convinced” that easings could come before the holidays. The possibility will be discussed at the next summit between the federal government and the federal states on February 16.
However, the health minister did add that the prerequisite would be the Omicron wave of COVID-19 reaching its peak in mid-February, as the government expects, and so the outcome of discussions will depend on what the situation is like then. “You can’t sell the skin before you have caught the bear,” he said.
Lauterbach is currently firmly against loosening restrictions, describing it as “crazy” to propose relaxing measures while the COVID infection rate is still so high. “What would happen in Germany if we proceeded as in England?” he asked. “Then we would have roughly 300 deaths per day. But we have significantly fewer, namely 60 to 80.” He emphasised that the measures are saving people’s lives “every day."
National versus regional approach debated
Lauterbach’s comments received the support of Saskia Weishaupt, Greens chairperson on the health committee. “We have a responsibility to protect the health and life of all people, which also includes not simply announcing hasty openings and easing,” she said to the Augsburger Allgemeine.
On the other hand, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, chairperson of the board of the World Medical Association, said that the debate around loosening restrictions was not coming too early but at “just the right time.” “We must now determine what will happen, when and under what circumstances,” he said in an interview with the Rheinische Post.
He called for better scientific data to be used to justify certain measures and then applied nationwide. “What matters is where the infection drivers are,” he said. “If it isn’t contacts in [the retail sector], then 2G should be replaced by a consistent mask requirement… But we should also implement this nationwide and consistently.”
However, Friedrich Merz, the newly-elected chairperson of the CDU, has spoken in favour of a more regional approach. “We have very different infection processes,” he said to the Rheinische Post. “Schleswig-Holstein could almost follow the Danish path. For Bavaria and Saxony that is not yet the case in question. So we have to proceed regionally.”