Appearing at a press conference with Robert Koch Institute (RKI) chair Lothar Wieler and the Standing Vaccine Commission’s Thomas Mertens, Spahn said the government had no plans to phase out Covid restrictions in the same way as the UK.
“We don’t need an exit strategy,” he told one reporter after being asked when Germany planned to lift restrictions on public life such as testing, masks and health pass entry rules.
Pointing to the UK, which simultaneously dropped all remaining Covid restrictions on July 19th, 2021, Spahn said the country had paid a high price for its increased freedoms.
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“The UK bought their herd immunity through countless infections, and double the number of deaths,” he said. “If we had the same amount of deaths per capita as in the UK, 200,000 people would have died in Germany.”
With the start of the flu season approaching, health experts are concerned that the combined impact of influenza and Covid could place undue stress on Germany’s healthcare system.
“If many Covid-19 and flu sufferers appear at the same time, the hospitals will be massively overburdened,” Wieler said at the press conference.
Such a scenario can best be avoided with vaccinations and the wearing of masks, social distancing, hygiene, ventilation and using the Corona-Warn app, he added.
Urging people to get their flu jabs, Spahn emphasised that people would have to remain cautious throughout the colder months in order to keep Covid infections low.
“Four in five adults are now fully vaccinated, which allows for a lot, but we still need to look after each other over autumn and winter,” he said.
Increased vaccination rates would mean that Germany could start to ease restrictions even further, he said.
“If another variant doesn’t emerge that’s vaccine-resistant, I’m confident we can have a lot of freedom back next year.”
‘Children need protecting’
Since schools reopened with in-person teaching in most parts of Germany, the RKI has recorded a much higher prevalence of children with Covid compared to the rest of the population.
In recent weeks, however, a handful of states have decided to drop the mask-wearing requirement in schools, with others said to be weighing up the move.
- Hamburg says Covid masks must continue in schools after ‘superspreader’ investigation
- German experts divided over state plans to relax Covid mask rules in schools
Commenting on loosening restrictions in schools, RKI chairman Lothar Wieler said social distancing and other protective measures were still advisable in school premises due to the level of indoor contact involved.
At present, there isn’t enough evidence to determine the long-term effects of the coronavirus on children, though there is evidence that children can also suffer from Long Covid, he said.
“We’re still of the opinion that children need protecting,” Wieler said. “We want schools and nurseries to remain open, but please keep protective measures in place.”
The weekly incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people has been fluctuating over the past month or so. As of Wednesday, the 7-day incidence had dropped slightly to 62.3 per 100,000 residents, down from 63.6 the day before.