German Health Minister wants to take over decisions on Covid ‘recovery’ status

Just weeks after transferring authority for decisions on vaccination and recovery status to the Robert Koch Institute, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has said he now wants to re-assume this authority himself.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD)
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) arrives at the Paul Löbe House on February 13th, 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Britta Pedersen

Following a controversial decision to shorten the duration of the Covid recovery status to three months, Lauterbach wants to remove the authority to decide on vaccination and recovery status from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

“I would like to decide on far-reaching decisions such as recovery status myself and in a direct manner,” Lauterbach told the newspaper Bild on Wednesday. “Otherwise I bear the political responsibility for the actions of others.”

According to Bild, the SPD has included a sentence in a set of draft proposals ahead of a meeting of federal and state leaders on Wednesday that would see this power transferred back to the Health Ministry. 

The RKI and Paul-Ehrlich Institute were given joint control over definitions of Covid vaccination and recovery status at the start of January this year.

But just a few weeks later, the RKI opened itself to criticism when it decided to halve the amount of time during which someone could count as recovered from six months to three without warning. 

The decision had far-reaching implications for access to public venues under 2G (vaccination and recovery) and 2G-plus (vaccination and recovery plus test or booster) rules.

With the sudden change, many people found themselves stripped of access to these venues overnight.

There has also been confusion about the clash with EU rules, which dictate that the recovery status is valid for up to 180 days, rather than Germany’s 90. 

In a recent clarification, the RKI also indicated that different lengths of recovery apply to the vaccinated and unvaccinated, leading to yet more confusion as pharmacists scrambled to change their certificate-issuing practices. 

READ ALSO: How German pharmacies are extending the ‘recovery’ status for vaccinated people

Following the change, the liberal FDP singled out Lothar Wieler, the head of the RKI, for sharp criticism. Lauterbach, however, has maintained that Wieler still has his trust. 

According to a draft resolution released ahead of the meeting of state and federal leaders on Wednesday, the decision on recovery status is set to be reversed.

In an interview with DPA, Lauterbach also floated the idea of amending the Infection Protection Act to allow for a flexible approach to managing Covid after March 20th.

In the latest version of the bill, all Covid measures aside from masks and social distancing are due to be removed on this date. 

Agreeing that it was time for a “measured relaxation” of rules, Lauterbach said he also wanted to ensure that the government could react quickly to any unexpected developments in the pandemic.

For that reason, the Infection Protection Act should be formulated in such a way “that basic protection remains guaranteed and can be extended if necessary”, he said.

“We will amend the text in the parliamentary procedure so that even after March 20th more is possible than masks and social distancing.”

READ ALSO: German leaders to thrash out plan to phase out Covid restrictions

Member comments

  1. I sure hope this man is held accountableby a jury of our peers for his actions throughout all of this.
    His actions have been negligible at best. Criminal at worst.

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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?