‘We are still in the third wave’: German Health Minister urges caution in reopening after shutdown

German states are putting together their plans for reopening after around six months of an almost complete shutdown of public life. But there are calls to do it gradually.

'We are still in the third wave': German Health Minister urges caution in reopening after shutdown
Empty tables at a restaurant in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Coronavirus infections are dropping significantly in many parts of Germany.  But Health Minister Jens Spahn has urged for states not to rush when relaxing restrictions.

READ ALSO: Dozens of German districts and cities see major drop in Covid-19 cases

Spahn said the reopening of public life – such as for restaurants, museums and gyms, must happen “step by step”.

He also called for caution when it comes to easing Covid rules for vaccinated people and those who’ve recovered from the virus.

“We have reason for a lot of confidence and perspective – the number of vaccinations is increasing, we can make relaxations,” the CDU politician told broadcaster ZDF on Wednesday.

“But we are also still in the third wave,” he added. The numbers are going down, but they are not yet low enough, he said – and intensive care units are still heavily burdened. “Confidence combined with prudence and caution” is needed right now, Spahn said.

Germany has been in some form of virus shutdown since November, with numbers of new infections remaining consistently high amid an initially sluggish vaccination campaign.

But the campaign has since picked up pace, with more than a million jabs issued in one day last week, and new infection numbers have started to come down gradually.

READ ALSO: Germany breaks European record by giving a million Covid jabs in a day

Spahn warned that the experiences of other countries around the world show that “if you open up too quickly, it (the virus) can catch up with you very quickly”.

“We are doing this step by step with a sense of proportion, but also with an understanding that fundamental rights and freedoms are at stake here,” he said.

Under national measures introduced in April, areas with an incidence rate of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days must introduce overnight curfews and people may only meet with one other person from another household during the day.

But as regions manage to get the number of cases below this threshold, they can get rid of these rules and begin to open facilities. 

States, including Berlin and Bavaria, are putting plans together on how they will reopen.


Spahn urged states to concentrate on outdoor areas in the first step, such as allowing outdoor dining in restaurants.

On Wednesday, the Robert Koch Institute logged 18,034 coronavirus cases within 24 hours and 285 deaths. There have been a total of around 3.5 million reported infections since the start of the pandemic, although numbers are expected to be much higher as many cases go unreported.

Germany has in total seen around 83,870 reported deaths connected to Covid-19.

About 29.5 percent of the population has received at least one vaccination against the coronavirus, and 8.3 percent are fully inoculated.

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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