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COVID-19

Germany plans return to working from home as Covid infections rise

Germany is preparing a return to working from home under draft legislation seen by AFP, as the country tries to tackle an unprecedented wave of coronavirus cases.

A woman works from home in Germany.
A woman works from home in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Finn Winkler

The reintroduction of the rule, which was lifted at the beginning of July, comes as Germany faces a growing fourth wave of the virus.

Infections and deaths have been climbing steeply since mid-October, in an outbreak blamed on Germany’s vaccination rate of just over 67 percent – still
leaving a large share of people more vulnerable to infection and severe disease.

At over 300 cases per 100,000 people, the recorded incidence of the coronavirus reached a new high in Europe’s most populous country on Monday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency.

“The coming wave will overshadow all the previous waves,” Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer, whose region is currently amongst the worst hit, told German weekly Bild am Sonntag.

READ ALSO: Could Germany really see a lockdown this winter?

Under the draft plan, employers in Germany would be forced to offer the option to work from home in the absence of a “compelling business reason” to come to the office.

Anyone going into work would also be asked to show they were protected against the virus or had tested negative.

The German government is also working up plans to limit access to certain events to those who have both been vaccinated or recovered from a coronavirus infection, and can present a negative test, according to reports in the German media.

The new package of measures is being drafted in close consultation with the parties seeking to form the next German government, the Social Democrats, the Greens and the liberal FDP.

Their joint legislation will be presented to the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, for approval on Thursday, before being signed off by the upper house on Friday.

The German government and regional leaders also come together virtually on Thursday to coordinate their response.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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