German hospitals ‘won’t get overwhelmed’ in Omicron wave

A high-profile medical expert expects Germany's health system to manage the Omicron wave of Covid-19 without becoming overwhelmed, fuelling more debate about easing restrictions.

A positive Covid-19 test at a test centre in Dresden
A positive Covid-19 test at a test centre in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

“I currently no longer expect the German health care system to be overloaded in the coming weeks,” Gerald Gaß, head of the German Hospital Association, told Bild newspaper. 

He said Germany’s current tough Covid-19 measures, which include the closure of clubs and barring unvaccinated people from most parts of public life, had “contributed significantly” to the Omicron wave not hitting the health system as hard as initially feared. 

Gaß said he believed the restrictions, such as 2G-plus in restaurants, should remain in place until the peak of the Omicron wave, which the government expects in one to two weeks.

After that he says there will no doubt be “gradual relaxations for the coming weeks”, he said.

Germany on Wednesday reported 234,350 Covid-19 infections and 272 deaths within the latest 24 hour period. The 7-day incidence reached 1,450.8 infections per 100,000 residents. 

According to the DIVI intensive care register, 2,390 Covid patients were in intensive care units across Germany on February 8th, with 1,174 receiving ventilation treatment. 

On Tuesday, Robert Koch Institute chief Lothar Wieler said Germany was nearing the “turning point” in the Omicron wave,

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

READ ALSO: Germany ‘facing a turning point in Omicron wave’

Calls have been growing for the government and states to put a plan together to reopen public life fully.

“Politicians must now develop a concept of what the opening steps should look like in concrete terms,” Ulrich Weigeldt, chairman of the German GP Association, told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND).

“What must not happen is that hectic, inconsistent and not well thought-out relaxation measures are decided,” he urged.

Parliamentary group leader of the FDP in the Bundestag, Christian Dürr, told Bild that as soon as the danger of overburdening the health system no longer posed a threat, restrictions would have to be withdrawn.

“That is why we are also already talking about concrete opening perspectives,” he said.

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: When will Germany relax its Covid restrictions?

Green Party politician Dieter Janecek said children must be considered first when it comes to easing restrictions.

“Children and youths finally need complete normality again, they should be the first to benefit from openings,” he said, urging all restrictions to be dropped for youth sports and clubs.

The next Covid summit between the government and states is scheduled for February 16th. 

Member comments

  1. Indeed. The mandate for masks for the kids in school, especially after they are constantly tested, needs to go. Forcing children to wear masks is simply child abuse and cannot be viewed as anything else at this point in the pandemic. They will not die and are nearly universal in having asymptomatic or extremely mild infections. If they spread it to the adults in their homes, oh well. Adults should be vaccinated. Especially older ones. If you’re not, it’s nobody’s fault but your own and stop punishing everyone else in society for your poor choices.

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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?