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COVID-19 RULES

Germany facing a turning point in Omicron wave, says RKI chief

Head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) Lothar Wieler said Germany will "soon get through" the Omicron wave of Covid-19, and can look forward to a relaxed Easter.

RKI chief Lothar Wieler and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach on Tuesday.
RKI chief Lothar Wieler and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“We are facing a turning point,” said Wieler during the press conference with Health Minister Karl Lauterbach on Tuesday. 

“I am optimistic that we will soon get through the Omicron wave, even if the peak of the wave has not yet been reached.

“We have navigated through this storm comparatively well so far.”

Compared to the previous dominant Covid variant – Delta – a smaller proportion of infected people are becoming seriously ill with Omicron, said Wieler.

But according to the head of the RKI, it is too early to sound the all-clear – because so far, mainly younger people have been hit in this wave while the incidence among older people is gradually rising.

The high number of unvaccinated people over the age of 60 continues to be a cause for concern, so Wieler called for the restrictions to slow the spread to remain in place to protect vulnerable groups and critical infrastructure.

“In a few weeks, we will have weathered the Omikron wave,” said Wieler. “Let’s stay calm and mindful and alert. And then we can relax and look forward to Easter.”

READ ALSO: Germany will relax Covid rules ‘well before Easter’, says Health Minister 

During the press conference, Health Minister Lauterbach spoke out against some region’s plans to relax Germany’s tough Covid restrictions while infections are still rocketing.

He said Germany should expect to reach the peak of the Omicron wave in mid-February or “possibly a little later”.

Lauterbach said the measures that have been taken by Germany to slow the wave of infections – including barring unvaccinated people from much of public life and the closure of clubs – were working. “So they are right.” he said. 

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He said significant reopening of public life would jeopardise the “functioning, successful strategy”, and prolong the wave. 

“We cannot support broad relaxations as they are currently being discussed at this point in time,” said Lauterbach, adding he is particularly concerned for older unvaccinated people in Germany. 

Lauterbach said he could envisage restrictions being eased well before the Easter holidays, which fall in April this year.

It came as Bavaria’s premier Markus Söder struck out on his own this week by announcing that a host of measures would be relaxed. 

He intends to scrap the nighttime curfew for restaurants, and increase the seating capacity in cultural and sporting venues.

Meanwhile, services like hair salons, tattoo parlous and beauticians will be able to operate under a 3G policy. This will allow unvaccinated people to use a negative test for entry, rather than a vaccination or recovery certificate (known as 2G rules).

Söder also plans to suspend compulsory vaccination for employees in the health and care sector in Bavaria. 

READ ALSO: Bavaria to postpone vaccine mandate for health and care workers

Lauterbach said Söder was sending a “dangerous signal”, but said he hoped the government could find a solution with the states for the implementation of the agreed law, which is due to come into force on March 15th. 

Lauterbach, a trained epidemiologist, also criticised medical staff who refuse to get vaccinated against Covid in the first place. 

“It can’t be acceptable that the staff in these facilities say: ‘we do not accept the state of western knowledge, I do not believe in vaccination’,” said Lauterbach, adding that it is “not really a justifiable position for medical staff”.

Member comments

  1. “The high number of unvaccinated people over the age of 60 continues to be a cause for concern, so Wieler called for the restrictions to slow the spread to remain in place to protect vulnerable groups and critical infrastructure.”

    NO! They have made their choice! Stop punishing the majority to “protect” the minority that made poor choices!

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TRAVEL NEWS

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

With the EU changing its Covid recommendations for flights, there is some confusion around whether people boarding a plane in Germany will still need to wear a mask. Here's what we know so far.

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

As of Monday, the aviation safety agency EASA and the EU health authority ECDC no longer recommend mandatory Covid masks in airports and on planes.

However, if masks are compulsory at the point of departure or destination, this should continue to apply in aircraft as well, they say.

So, what does this mean for passengers boarding flights in Germany? At the moment, not very much at all. 

In Germany, the Infection Protection Act still stipulates that masks have to be worn on long-distance trains and planes. Masks are also compulsory on local public transport.

The previous weeks have seen Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) come out in favour of scrapping compulsory masks – especially on flights.

But so far, nothing concrete has been done to change the Infection Protection Act, which is due to expire on September 23rd. 

READ ALSO: German politicians row over lifting mandatory Covid mask rule

What are the current rules on flights? 

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, masks are compulsory on all flights taking off or landing in Germany.

FFP2 or medical masks must be worn when boarding and disembarking and throughout the flight, though they can be removed when eating and drinking.

Children under the age of six are exempt from the mask-wearing requirement. 

The ministry has argued that the obligation to wear masks also complies with the new EU recommendations. 

What are the rules acros the EU? 

In general, the relaxed EU recommendation does not mean that masks are no longer compulsory on all flights. However, many countries have kept this measure in place as a simple way to reduce infection. 

Europe’s largest low-cost airline, Ryanair, published a list of 14 EU countries in which national laws continue to require the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of Covid.

Besides Germany, popular tourist destinations such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France are included on the list. 

In other EU countries, the airline said it would be dropping mandatory masks on flights, adding that it “welcomed” the relaxed recommendations from the EU health authorities.  

READ ALSO: Will Germany soon get rid of mandatory face masks on public transport?

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