Stoßlüften: The new German guidelines for when someone sneezes indoors

Sneeze or cough indoors in Germany? Fear not if you follow these steps, said the Federal Environment Agency.

Stoßlüften: The new German guidelines for when someone sneezes indoors
Photo: Bayer Vital GmbH / Getty Images

To avoid the spread of coronavirus indoors, enclosed spaces should be immediately stoßgelüftet (briefly but completely ventilated) after every cough or sneeze, according to experts from the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt).

The Commission on Indoor Air Quality (Kommission Innenraumlufthygiene) at the Federal Environment Agency also recommends that schools should “use fully opened windows to completely ventilate” classrooms in every break between lessons, and at least after every 45 minutes of teaching. 

READ ALSO: 'Durchzug is not harmful': Red Cross tells Germans to leave their fans on and windows open

Keeping windows tilted open over a longer period of time, on the other hand, is not enough to sufficiently ventilate heavily occupied rooms, they said. 

Fresh air is necessary regardless of whether other protective measures such as social distancing, hygiene precautions and face coverings are in place, said the Commission in a statement to DPA. 

READ ALSO: Germany sees rise in number of people with coronavirus

If “individuals show symptoms such as repeated sneezing or coughing”, the affected room should be “immediately ventilated”, the advice states.

This applies not only to classrooms, but also to offices and apartments. 

‘Significantly reduce’ the risk

Rooms used for sports should be ventilated significantly more often – the Commission recommends at least five times an hour.

When there are lots of people within a room at the same time, for example at a family gathering, experts recommend that the room be ventilated throughout. 

These recommendations should help to “significantly reduce” the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, according to their statement.

Scientists have discovered that one of the ways that the virus can spread is through so-called aerosol droplets in the air – or tiny particles that are produced when we breathe, cough, speak and sneeze. 

Consistent ventilation can significantly reduce the risk of infection, but it cannot eliminate the risk altogether, read the statement. 

Social distancing measures in a school in Hessen, Wiesbaden. Photo: Arne Dedert/DPA

READ ALSO: More schools in Germany reopen to pupils – but with strict coronavirus rules

Ventilation systems should be set up to ensure that they bring fresh air into a room without recycling any used air – air-circulation systems are therefore not advised.

Experts do not consider portable air purifiers to be a suitable substitute for ventilation either – at best they serve only as a supplement to proper ventilation. 

According to their recommendations, so-called “CO2 meters” could offer a rough indication as to whether a room needs to be ventilated.

A CO2 concentration of up to 1000 ppm – ie. parts per million parts – indicates “under normal conditions a hygienically adequate level of air exchange”.

Translated by Eve Bennett


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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.