German Health Minister insists Covid ‘state of emergency’ can end in November

Covid infections are rising, but Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn believes the so-called 'epidemic situation of national relevance' can be phased out.

Health Minister Jens Spahn adjusts his FFP2 mask during the North Rhine-Westphalia CDU state party conference on Saturday.
Health Minister Jens Spahn adjusts his FFP2 mask during the North Rhine-Westphalia CDU state party conference on Saturday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Thissen

Spahn insisted on Sunday that Germany’s ‘pandemic emergency powers’ should expire in November.

“The state of emergency, established by the Bundestag – that can be ended in my view because four out of five adults have been vaccinated,” he told broadcaster ZDF. 

A nationwide Covid-19 state of emergency, which is a special clause in the German constitution, allows the federal and state governments to order measures without the approval of parliaments. It was first declared in March 2020.

READ ALSO: Germany’s emergency pandemic powers could end in November

In August this year, the Bundestag extended the “epidemic situation of national importance” for a further three months until November 25th. It will automatically end if not extended again by parliament.

The topic has sparked controversy in view of the currently rising Covid-19 infection figures in Germany. Critics fear a “patchwork” of measures and regulations across Germany’s 16 states when the state of emergency ends. 

However, Spahn said this move would not declare the pandemic over. He said restrictions, including Germany’s so-called Covid health pass entry rules to many indoor public spaces – known as 3G in German for vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen) and tested (getestet) – were very important. 

Fact check: Will Germany’s Covid restrictions end in November?

He said: “I also say consistently, as do many others, we still need precautionary measures in autumn and winter.” Spahn added that mask and distance rules were needed in areas such as public transport and shops. 

Spahn said a change in the law would make it possible for the states and local authorities to continue Covid measures. 

“I also expressly support that,” Spahn said, adding that he believed special protective measures were also needed in places like schools and nursing homes. 

On Monday Germany recorded 6,573 Covid infections and 17 deaths within 24 hours. The 7-day incidence rose to 110.1 Covid infections per 100,000 residents. 

The number of hospitalisations has also increased slightly.

READ ALSO: Germany’s real Covid fourth wave has started, says health expert

Experts say the Covid situation will get worse over winter. 

SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach warned of sharply rising infection figures among children.

“We will see significantly more outbreaks in schools after the autumn holidays,” he told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

“There will also be chains of infection in businesses. The same applies to bars and restaurants. We can expect a continuous increase.”

Lauterbach suggested more Covid testing in schools to help control the situation and protect children. 

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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.