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COVID-19

Germany considers tighter Covid restrictions in restaurants

German state leaders are considering whether to bring in extra requirements for visiting restaurants, cafes and bars in a bid to slow the spread of the omicron wave.

A restaurant in Berlin with a '2G-plus' sign on the window.
A restaurant in Berlin with a '2G-plus' sign on the window. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Among the topics being discussed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and state leaders on Friday is a requirement for the ‘2G-plus’ rule in the hospitality industry. 

The draft document put together ahead of the meeting proposes that from January 15th at the latest, access to catering businesses (restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes and similar) across Germany will only be possible for people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19, along with a negative Covid-19 test.

If people can show proof of having a booster jab, they don’t need to show a Covid test. 

READ ALSO: What new Covid-19 rules could Germany announce on Friday?

Before the meeting, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said he believes more contact restrictions are needed in bars and restaurants because of the more transmissible Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Lauterbach told the German news programme RTL Direkt on Thursday that leaders were considering the 2G-plus rule that would mean people could only enter indoor hospitality areas if they “have been vaccinated twice and tested”.

“Only those who have been boosted will be able to enter (without a test),” he said.

“Hospitality is a problem area,” added Lauterbach. “People often sit there for hours without a mask. And if people there then infect each other, as we see a lot with Omicron, then we need better protection. Hence – 2G-plus – so vaccinated and additionally tested.”

Some businesses have already voluntarily moved to the 2G-plus rule, but this would create a uniform regulation nationwide.

But it’s been met with some opposition. 

The German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga) slammed the planned introduction of the 2G-plus rule.

The association’s chief executive, Ingrid Hartges, told German daily Bild: “Nationwide 2G-Plus would be a disaster for pubs and restaurants.”

Hartges warned that bar and restaurant owners should not be the ones to suffer if the government “apparently wants to create incentives for the third vaccination (booster)”. 

Hartges called on the federal and state governments to instead expand vaccination and testing capacities “so that this gruelling situation is brought to an end as quickly as possible”.

The Bavarian Hotel and Restaurant Association also rejects 2G-plus in restaurants.

“The planned decision would be tantamount to a quasi-lockdown in January, which is already extremely weak in terms of turnover, and for many establishments it would no longer be profitable to continue opening,” association president Angela Inselkammer said. 

READ ALSO: Top virologist signals support for shortening quarantine in Germany

Can we expect more contact rules?

Lauterbach also did not rule out an extension of – or tougher – contact restrictions.

Currently a maximum of 10 vaccinated and recovered people can meet in private across Germany.

Unvaccinated people are allowed to meet with their own household and a max of two people from another household.

In both cases, under-14s are not included. 

Germany on Friday reported 56,334 Covid cases within the latest 24 hour period, and 264 deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 303.4 infections per 100,000 people. 

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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