In view of the sharp rise in Covid infections throughout Germany, the federal and state governments want to maintain the current measures, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said on Monday after crunch talks with state leaders.
Earlier in January, leaders tightened restrictions by bringing in the 2G-plus rules to the hospitality industry – meaning people who are vaccinated/recovered have to show proof of a booster shot or a negative Covid test to enter. They also shortened quarantine periods.
“It is clear to all of us that the direction we have taken will help,” Scholz said after the online meeting.
Germany is seeing record 7-day incidence figures as the Omicron wave hits.
On Monday, health authorities reported 63,393 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period and the 7-day incidence stood at 840.3 cases per 100,000 people.
Scholz said it is still not clear “whether we will have to reckon with a more dramatic situation” due to the Omicron wave, or if Germany will get through it without the need for more restrictions.
He said it was important “that we remain cautious” and “stay the course”.
Change of test strategy
Scholz said the PCR Covid test strategy would be changing due to bottlenecks.
“Testing must and will be done,” Scholz emphasised. However, due to a shortage of PCR tests – the current capacity is about 300,000 per day – they will be set aside in future for groups such as hospital or care workers and vulnerable people.
It’s still unclear how this would work in practice. It could be, for instance, that people who receive a positive rapid test or a red alert on the Corona-Warn-app do will not need to take a PCR test for confirmation in future.
Scholz said a plan for a better supply of PCR tests would also be worked out.
The Chancellor again urged people to get vaccinated, especially to protect vulnerable people and the elderly. He said the government is to relaunch its advertising campaign for jabs.
Just over 75 percent of the German population has received at least one jab. “That has to be much more,” he said, saying Germany was not doing as well as lots of other countries on the vaccination front.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s state premier Hendrik Wüst, current chair of the so-called Minister-Presidents’ Conference, stressed there would be a two-pronged approach in the pandemic fight.
“We have to look both ways in the coming weeks,” said the CDU politician.
Ministers are to consider the possibility of tightening measures if needed as well as looking at steps for relaxing rules.
Dispute over Lauterbach’s management
Wüst touched on another point of conflict from the federal-state discussions: the dispute over the seemingly unexpected change in the status of Covid recovered people, which was recently shortened from six months to three.
“Such changes need advance notice,” Wüst said, adding that people in Germany needed a “forward-looking pandemic policy”.
According to German magazine Spiegel, several state premiers complained about the last-minute change of course by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), and the problems in communication.
Wüst spoke of the need to continue working constructively and said he didn’t want to “assign blame” to anyone. Scholz said there was a “discussion based on solidarity”, and defended Lauterbach, calling him an “excellent minister”.