Germany's expert council signals support for relaxing Covid rules

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 14 Feb, 2022 Updated Mon 14 Feb 2022 09:52 CEST
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A sign showing the 2G-plus rules in a restaurant in Düsseldorf. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

The German government's Covid advisory council has signalled support for measures to be eased when the Omicron wave breaks.

The council said Germany was in a "new phase of the pandemic" but warned warned of "uncertainties due to a still far too large immunity gap in the population" in its latest recommendations released on Sunday. 

However, experts said that steps to reopen public life should be expected.

"The number of SARS-CoV-2 infections has steadily increased so far, but a plateauing and subsequent decline for the Omicron (BA.1) wave is to be expected in the coming weeks," the council said.

"A rollback of government infection control measures appears sensible once a stable decline in hospitalisation and intensive care admissions and occupancy is seen."

Germany's government and state leaders are set to meet on Wednesday to discuss the Covid situation - and a plan for easing measures is expected. 

READ ALSO: Germany to ease Covid restrictions after Omicron wave peaks 

What else does the Council of Experts say?

The council, which was set up to help guide German leaders on the Covid strategy, urged for a cautious approach to relaxing restrictions, particularly because of concerns over the sub-variant of Omicron, known as BA.2.

They said reopening public life too quickly could result in a "renewed increase in the burden of disease". 

Germany has several tough measures in place aimed at slowing the spread of Covid, including barring unvaccinated people from most parts of public life (the 2G rule), and requiring vaccinated and recovered people to show proof of a negative test or a booster shot to access many places (2G-plus). There are also some closures in place, such as for clubs. 

Experts said removing Covid restrictions in Germany would mean more unvaccinated and older people, would be at risk of picking up an infection. 

The council said "these groups carry the highest risk for a severe course of the disease and must be protected".

They said that people in Germany should continue to act cautiously and responsibly "with regard to infection protection".

Experts urged for mandatory face masks in some public places to continue, but added: "If the number of infections is low enough, it (mask measure) can be temporarily lifted, but this should be accompanied by a clear communication on the time limit".

The council also urged the government to take into account the different dynamics depending on the season. In autumn and winter, experts say wearing masks and regular testing for vulnerable groups will be needed. 

In their recommendation, the experts said that the testing strategy should be adapted in the coming months due to the "high economic and ecological burden".

"In particular, it should be examined whether testing should be limited to symptomatic cases," the council advised. "Early detection of significant changes in infection dynamics, e.g. via random surveillance, is elementary, especially in view of the coming autumn/winter."

READ ALSO: German hospitals ‘won’t get overwhelmed in Omicron wave’

Vocabulary

Relaxations - (die) Lockerungen

Council of Experts/expert board - (der) Expertenrat

To recommend (something) - (etwas) empfehlen

Subsequent - nachfolgend

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