‘Hold out a little longer’: German health expert warns against lifting Covid restrictions too soon

'Hold out a little longer': German health expert warns against lifting Covid restrictions too soon
A sign for vaccinations in Darmstadt, Hesse. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa/POOL | Arne Dedert
There's good news: Covid-19 infections in Germany are coming down - but health expert Karl Lauterbach has urged states to remain cautious until more people have been vaccinated.

Lauterbach, the SPD’s health spokesman who has become a high profile figure in the pandemic, said the situation in Germany was positive.

On broadcaster ZDF’s talkshow Maybrit Illner on Thursday, he said that was down to a number of reasons including people changing their behaviour around Easter after hearing about the critical third wave. 

He also said the so-called ’emergency brake’ Covid measures, such as curfews, which some states brought in before Merkel’s nationwide order came into force in mid-April had an impact.

ANALYSIS: Why are Germany’s Covid cases coming down so sharply?

Now states are putting plans together to begin reopening public life. But Lauterbach said the infection situation will improve even more as the vaccination rate increases.

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“If it (the proportion of people who have received at least one vaccine dose) is 40 or 50 percent, the incidence actually drops exponentially,” says Lauterbach. “And we will reach this tipping point at the end of May – at the latest.”

Until then, it’s important to hold out, he pleaded. He warned against a scenario where non-vaccinated people get infected in the last stretch. 

“In these last three weeks, I would rely on the scientific models,” Lauterbach said. “We can hold out a little longer, after that it can be opened.”

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Lauterbach had said at the weekend that Germany had stopped the third wave, but to defeat it, Covid-19 cases had to drop significantly.

On Friday, Germany recorded 18,485 Covid-19 cases within 24 hours and 284 deaths. The 7-day incidence dropped further to 125.7 cases per 100,000 residents.

About 31.5 percent of the population had received at least one jab up to May 6th, and 8.8 percent had been fully inoculated.

Young people could feel doubly disadvantaged

Chairwoman of the German Ethics Council Alena Buyx said the country should continue to proceed with a sense of proportion and not to reopen public life uncontrollably.

“As much as people are suffering and so many are affected, I think very few want to put that at risk now,” said Buyx.

The talk show guests, which included Hesse state premier Volker Bouffier, sports legend Katarina Witt and hotel manger Caroline von Kreschtmann, also debated the new regulation that will see vaccinated people and those who’ve recovered from Covid-19 face fewer restrictions.

Buyx warned that young people in particular could now see a double disadvantage for themselves. They have put their lives on hold for those at risk, and now have to wait a long time for their vaccination, she said.

Buyx said it is therefore important that people who test negatively for Covid-19 are treated the same way as those who have been vaccinated.

READ ALSO: German parliament passes law to allow freedoms for vaccinated people

‘Economic disaster’

When it comes to businesses hit by the six-month shutdown, hotel manager Caroline von Kretschmann said it is clear that there are difficult times ahead.

Hotels have only been allowed to open for essential travellers since November last year.

“We will hold out, but we will hold out with pain,” von Kretschmann said of her own situation at the Europäischer Hof hotel in Heidelberg

“In the last six months of lockdown we have an average utilisation of around eight percent. This is an economic disaster – no sales, but considerable costs. And we do not get as much in the federal government’s compensation payments.”

Von Kreschmann said she had to make up for the losses with loans, and that would weaken the hotel’s ability to survive in the long run – a situation facing many businesses across Germany as they look to the future. 


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