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HEALTH

Coronavirus: Berlin sends plane to Wuhan to evacuate citizens as fifth case detected in Germany

The German government has sent a military plane to the Chinese city of Wuhan to evacuate "over 100" of its citizens from the virus-hit region, as five patients in Germany were confirmed to have coronavirus.

Coronavirus: Berlin sends plane to Wuhan to evacuate citizens as fifth case detected in Germany
An armed forces plane in the military section of Cologne-Wahn airport. Photo: DPA

“We are relieved that we are at this point,” said Maas, adding that there  were no confirmed or suspected infections with the novel coronavirus among the German evacuees.

The plane is expected to return to Germany on Saturday, where passengers will be held in quarantine for two weeks at a military base in Germersheim, near Stuttgart.

It came as a fifth patient in Germany was confirmed as having contracted the coronavirus.

As with the other German cases, all employees work at the automotive supplier Webasto, based in Starnberg, Upper Bavaria,

Earlier this week the first of human-to-human transmission on European soil – a 33-year-old German man who fell ill after attending a training session hosted by a visiting Chinese colleague – was confirmed.

All five patients are in isolation in a Munich hospital.

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Maas said the evacuations would be voluntary, and all of those on board would be German citizens.

“We did have requests from other countries to evacuate their citizens too, but all the seats on the plane are taken,” he said.

The minister added that the outbound flight would also deliver 10,000 protective suits to China.

“We are using the flight to provide the Chinese authorities with materials they are lacking on the ground,” he said.

The Wuhan metropolis is at the heart of the SARS-like virus epidemic that has so far killed 213 people and led the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday to declare it an international public health emergency.

The city of 11 million has been subject to an unprecedented lockdown, preventing residents from leaving in a bid to stop the deadly virus from spreading further.

Numerous countries, including France, Britain, Japan and South Korea, have already begun airlifting their citizens out of Wuhan.

Berlin had planned to start its evacuations earlier this week, but was forced to delay until Chinese officials approved a landing permit for the flight.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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