‘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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‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.


Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music