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Bavaria orders compulsory FFP2 masks on public transport and in shops

The southern state is tightening mask restrictions over fears of Covid-19 variants spreading.

Bavaria orders compulsory FFP2 masks on public transport and in shops
A pharmacy employee shows an FFP2 mask. Photo: DPA

From next Monday, people in Bavaria will have to wear FFP2 mouth and nose coverings while travelling on public transport and when in shops.

State premier Markus Söder, of Angela Merkel's CDU sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), announced the changes after a cabinet meeting in Munich on Tuesday.

Söder said that the “normal community masks” were for the protection of others during the pandemic. FFP2 masks, which are available in pharmacies, also protect the wearer.

The aim, he said, was to improve safety in public transport and in the retail trade.

“The availability (of the masks) in trade is sufficiently guaranteed, so there is no shortage of FFP2,” the state premier stressed. The masks are “clearly in abundance, in part anyway”, he added.

Overall, Söder said there was a “cautiously positive trend” in view of declining virus numbers in Bavaria. “A large part of the measures are beginning to have an effect,” he said.

READ ALSO: Merkel says Germany could need tough lockdown measures 'for 8 to 10 more weeks'


Bavarian premier Markus Söder. Photo: DPA

Within 24 hours, there were 1,740 new infections in Bavaria reported on Tuesday – almost 500 fewer than a week ago.

With a seven-day incidence of 158.8 (average number of Covid-19 infections per 100,000 residents in seven days), Bavaria is in seventh place among the 16 states nationwide.

Throughout Germany there were a total of 12,802 positive cases over the previous 24 hours with an additional 891 deaths.

This is not the full picture, though as it's still unclear what effect socialising and travel over the Christmas holidays will have.

Authorities say we'll see more of the consequences of this towards the end of the week.

Söder stressed that consistency and patience was still needed in the fight against the virus in Germany.

The CSU leader warned against an increased spread of coronavirus variants, such as that which originated in the UK.

He compared the measures against the mutations to “a race against time”. “The mutations are causing us concern,” he said.

In this context, Söder repeated his proposal calling for Germany to debate making the vaccine compulsory for a limited time for staff in old people's and nursing homes.

The Covid-19 vaccine is not compulsory in Germany.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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