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HEALTH

Germany’s Lufthansa extends China flight ban as coronavirus toll climbs

Germany's flagship carrier Lufthansa on Monday said it was suspending all flights to and from mainland China for longer than initially announced, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus climbed past 360.

Germany's Lufthansa extends China flight ban as coronavirus toll climbs
Photo: DPA

The Lufthansa group last week said it was halting its China flights until February 9th, including those run by subsidiaries Swiss and Austrian Airlines.

In an updated statement, the group said it was now halting flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai until February 29th.

The destinations of Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao in eastern China will not be served until March 28th, it added.

“The safety of passengers and employees is a top priority,” Lufthansa said, adding that the decision to prolong the suspension was made “after thoroughly evaluating all currently available information on the coronavirus”.

Flights to Hong Kong will take place as planned.

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Lufthansa and its two subsidiaries offer 54 weekly connections from Germany, Switzerland and Austria to mainland China, as well as 19 to Hong Kong.

The novel coronavirus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

It has so far infected more than 17,000 people and killed over 360, making it more deadly than the SARS crisis nearly two decades ago.

The virus has since spread to more than 24 countries despite many governments imposing unprecedented travel bans on people coming from China.

Around 10 cases have been detected in Germany so far. All patients are being treated in isolation wards.

Dozens of global airlines have halted flight services with China to contain the outbreak, including British Airways and Air Canada.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Demand for face masks in Germany jumps – but do they actually work?

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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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