Germany ‘must do everything’ to break fourth Covid wave, says Health Minister

Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks at a conference on Friday.
Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks at a conference on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm
Germany this week reported over 50,000 coronavirus infections in 24 hours - the world’s highest. Health Minister Jens Spahn now recommends new restrictions will be needed - even for the vaccinated.

Germany’s outgoing federal government is floating new restrictions aimed at curbing the country’s fourth Covid-19 wave, after it registered the highest number of new infections worldwide this week. Furthermore, the planned restrictions will, to some extent, affect everyone in the country, including the fully vaccinated.

“We must do everything necessary to break this trend,” Spahn told a press conference, warning how an uncontrolled spread could see the country’s Covid-19 numbers double every two weeks. “Otherwise it will be a bitter December for the whole country.”

Spahn is now floating the idea of a “2G Plus” rule for large events and clubs. Such a rule would restrict entry to the “geimpft” (vaccinated) and “genesen” (people who’ve recovered from Covid recently). This is already in place in many federal states for bars and clubs – but a “Plus” rule would require attendees to also present a negative test result alongside their certificate of recovery or vaccine pass.

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Bavarian state premier Markus Söder has already made a similar suggestion. Spahn has also joined many federal and state politicians in saying that a negative test result should also be required for anyone visiting a care home.

‘I won’t attend NYE parties’

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI), is asking people – including the vaccinated – to reduce their contacts and avoid large events entirely.

“It’s five minutes past midnight,” warned Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), underlining the serious situation. 

The weekly infection rate has soared to an all-time high of 263.7 per 100,000 people, and intensive care beds are filling up rapidly.

Several German cities kicked off months-long carnival celebrations on Thursday, with revellers required to prove they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid before entering the party zones.

The country’s much-loved Christmas market season is also on its way.

But Wieler said large gatherings “must be viewed very critically” and in some situations “clearly should be cancelled.”

Indoor celebrations especially can act as superspreader events “and everyone must really think about whether they want to expose themselves to that risk,” he told reporters in Berlin.

“I personally won’t be attending New Year’s Eve parties. But I urge people not to wait until then to think about their actions.”

Germany’s Covid surge has been blamed on a relatively low vaccination rate, with just over 67 percent of the population of some 83 million people fully inoculated.

Other European nations are battling similar Covid resurgences.

Austria has introduced rules that bar unvaccinated people from certain events and indoor venues. The Netherlands is planning a renewed “partial lockdown” as cases hit record levels.

‘Bitter December’

Health Minister Spahn, speaking alongside Wieler, said the situation in Germany “is serious”.

To help facilitate new testing requirements, Spahn has also announced that Germany will return to providing widespread free Covid-19 testing this weekend, after ending it in October in a bid to incentivise vaccination.

Several hard-hit states have already tightened their 2G rules to bar the unvaccinated from restaurants, gyms, hairdressers, and cultural spaces. Spahn, however, isn’t ruling out the possibility that another lockdown would be necessary.

The federal government and leaders of Germany’s 16 regional states are meeting next Thursday to discuss joint measures to combat the pandemic, following criticisms of a confusing patchwork of different restrictions emerging.

Among the proposed measures are stricter curbs on the unvaccinated, for instance by excluding them from indoor dining or venues such as cinemas, gyms and theatres – which some states are already doing.


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