Top German court tells government to protect disabled with triage law

Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that the federal government needs to create a law “without delay” that establishes rules on triage in hospitals.

Emergency hospital unit
An emergency unit at a hospital in Lower Saxony. Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich/dpa

The court found that the government had “fallen short” in its duty to protect life by not creating such a law on triage during the course of the pandemic.

According to the ruling, the law must ensure that “no one is disadvantaged because of a disability in the allocation of critical intensive care treatment should resources not be available to all.”

Nine people with disabilities or pre-existing conditions made the complaint to the court, fearing that doctors would deny them treatment in the case of triage.

Triage describes a situation in which hospitals need to prioritise life-saving equipment due to strain on resources.

German hospitals have never yet reached the point of having to apply triage during the course of Covid-19 pandemic, although doctors have expressed fear both this winter and last winter that such a situation could occur.

Doctors currently rely on the ethical guidelines written up by the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (Divi), which sets out how patients should be prioritized in the event of triage.

The complainants said that these guidelines disadvantage them as they make reference to a patient’s general health.

The constitutional judges said that the Divi guidelines were insufficient and that doctors should decide based “purely on current and short term chances of survival.”

Lawmakers now have to “comply with this duty to act without delay by taking suitable precautions,” the judges said.

SEE ALSO: Covid surge – the German districts running out of intensive care beds

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”