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Masks and Covid tests should continue in Germany’s schools until 2022, say health officials

Schoolchildren in Germany should be wearing mandatory masks and testing regularly for Covid until spring next year, the boss of the Robert Koch Institute has said.

Masks and Covid tests should continue in Germany's schools until 2022, say health officials
An FFP2 mask next to a child in a German classroom. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Lothar Wieler, RKI chief, called for protective measures in schools to continue due to the expected spread of the Delta variant.

“We recommend that testing and wearing mouth-nose protection continue in schools. From today’s perspective, I would say that should be the case until next spring,” Wieler told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

“On the one hand, we want to keep the incidence of infection low, after all, because children can also become seriously ill. And on the other hand, of course, we are aiming for schools to remain open.”

Wieler said the RKI expects the incidence of infection in schools to rise: “There will be increased cases in children – already we are seeing major outbreaks of the Delta variant in schools.”

READ ALSO: Where (and how) are Germany’s Delta variant Covid cases spreading?

When will Germany see the Delta spike?

The spread of the Delta variant depends on everyone’s behaviour, said the RKI chief. 

“Particularly when indoors we should continue to wear mouth-nose protection, reduce contacts and take advantage of testing opportunities,” he said.

Wieler said it’s difficult to predict when Germany will see the number of Covid cases rise again. In recent week, Covid infections have fallen dramatically.

On Friday Germany logged 774 Covid cases within 24 hours, and the 7-day incidence was 6.2 infections per 100,000 residents. 

“It also depends on the progress of vaccination drive as to when numbers will rise again,” said Wieler. “Therefore, the timing is difficult to predict. What is certain, however, is that there will be an increase in numbers again in the autumn and winter.”

Wieler said nobody could rule out stricter lockdown measures coming into force again.

“But what I know for sure is that if we remain cautious now, if we continue to wear masks now in closed rooms, if we continue to keep our distance and vaccination rates continue to go up, then we can avoid this,” he said.

“I am convinced of that. I can only express my hope that together we can do that.”

READ ALSO: Share of Delta variant Covid cases in Germany almost doubles in a week

So far there is no evidence to suggest the approved vaccines are not effective against the Delta variant, said Wieler.

“But of course we are concerned because new variants will emerge all the time,” he added. “They need to be detected quickly and then contact tracing needs to be done intensively.

“The lower the incidences are, the better health departments can do that.”

Vocabulary

To recommend – empfehlen

Occurrence or incidence of infection – (das) Infektionsgeschehen

To fall ill – erkranken

To predict – vorhersagen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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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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