On Friday Chancellor Olaf Scholz and state leaders decided to tighten Covid restrictions nationwide, with plans to implement 2G-plus in the hospitality industry.
It means that people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid – but haven’t had their booster shot – will have to take a rapid Covid test before visiting a bar, restaurant or cafe. People who are vaccinated and have a booster shot do not need a test.
States are currently implementing these rules and there may be some regional differences.
KEY POINTS: Germany’s plans to soften the impact of Omicron
On Sunday evening Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told German broadcaster ARD that the restrictions, including the changes to quarantine times, were an “important step forward” and would make cafes and restaurants “safer”.
“I believe that this will help us,” he said, but added that it would not defeat the Omicron wave. “I think the number of cases will increase. So further measures will still be necessary, in due course. But for now, this is a very important step forward.”
When asked if at some point only people with booster vaccinations could have access to restaurants – meaning that vaccinated people would be banned – Lauterbach said, “No, so that doesn’t necessarily mean that, because we can also take other measures. But I think it is important to first give the measures we have now taken a chance to work.”
He added that people in Germany could do their bit by getting vaccinated and boosted.
“The more people boosted we have in society, the harder it is for Omicron to build a strong wave,” Lauterbach added.
Green Party health politician Janosch Dahmen told broadcaster ZDF he believed 2G-plus rules could be extended.
“We may also have to adopt further indoor areas with 2G-plus measures as additional protection, beyond the catering industry,” he said.
The Omicron wave is only at the beginning, he said. “And when we look at neighbouring countries, we see it’s a big problem everywhere that we have to deal with now.”
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The more transmissible Omicron variant, which was first reported in South Africa in November, is spreading rapidly in Germany.
Experts believe that Omicron tends to lead to milder courses of the disease and that people who are infected need to be hospitalised less often.
However, the German government’s expert council recently warned that the strong infection dynamics threaten to outweigh the advantage of milder courses of the disease.
There are concerns that if large numbers of people are infected at the same time it could still overload the healthcare system, and lead to many people off sick at the same time which could destabilise vital services.
Some leading experts are calling for other approaches.
Bonn virologist Hendrik Streeck called for a “pragmatic approach” to the pandemic, and “to learn to live with the virus”.
“In contrast, the permanent state of alarm is tiring and not successful,” he told German daily Bild.
Streeck, however, urged that the burden in hospitals should “continue to be monitored closely and, if necessary, to react with measures”.
Germany on Monday reported 25,255 Covid cases and 52 deaths within the latest 24 hour period.
The 7-day incidence climbed to 375.7 infections per 100,000 people.
In due course – zu gegebener Zeit
Measures – (die) Maßnahmen
Entry/access – (der) Zugang
People who’ve received their booster vaccination – Geboosterte
Society/community – (die) Gesellschaft
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