Germany in ‘critical’ Covid situation, warns Health Minister

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach says Germany is in a "critical situation" because many people are still falling seriously ill due to Covid-19.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), does a press conference with RKI chief Lothar Wieler on Friday.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), does a press conference with RKI chief Lothar Wieler on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

Lauterbach was providing an update on the Covid pandemic in Germany at a press conference held alongside the head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, on Friday.

“We are in what we call a critical situation,” said Lauterbach, warning that intensive care services could get overwhelmed and cases of so-called long Covid could grow.

At the moment around 200 to 250 people are dying every day in connection with Covid-19 in Germany.

“I often read that the Omicron variant is less virulent. That’s only partially true,” said Lauterbach, saying he believes the number of daily deaths will continue to rise in the coming weeks. 

READ ALSO: Germany sees steep rise in Covid infections

On Friday, Germany saw 252,836 confirmed Covid infections and 249 deaths within the latest 24 hour period. The 7-day incidence stood at 1,439 infections per 100,000 people. 

Lothar Wieler, RKI chief, said the situation was worsening because of the more transmissible sub-variant BA.2, which now comprises more than a third of new cases in Germany.

As The Local has been reporting, Germany is set to drop almost all Covid restrictions from March 20th, but basic measures will remain.

The new legal basis for Covid restrictions after this date provides that measures such as masking and testing can continue in areas where it is needed, Lauterbach said. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s planned Covid strategy after ‘freedom day’

He clarified that Covid “hotspots” could be large areas, and not just individual cities or regions. These kinds of protective regulations could “also affect an entire federal state”, he said.

Lauterbach reiterated his call for a general vaccine mandate in Germany. “We absolutely need compulsory vaccination,” he urged.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for vaccinations to be made mandatory, but plans to pass the bill in parliament have been delayed.

The initiative however remains controversial with even some members of the parties making up his three-way coalition opposed.

Austria, which had led the way on obligatory jabs, has also this week suspended the rule.

Around three in four people in Germany are fully vaccinated, and 57 percent have received a third dose.

But 19.6 million people – including four million aged four years and younger – remain unvaccinated.

How will the pandemic develop?

The Health Minister outlined four possible scenarios for the development of the pandemic. These were: the Omicron variant of Covid-19 remains, Omicron becomes more dangerous, the Delta variant of Covid-19 comes back or combinations of these factors.

He also warned of a large wave of infections in the coming months. 

“With the level of unvaccinated people, we can say quite clearly: even in summer, the pandemic will not be over,” warned Lauterbach.

“Far too many people are still contracting Covid, far too many are still dying from Covid and far too many are still suffering from long-Covid symptoms,” said RKI head Wieler.

Severe illness, many deaths and long-term consequences can be avoided through vaccination, Wieler said, adding: “Vaccination is and remains the best and safest way to immunity.”

Member comments

  1. The way karl lauterbach goes on about vaccinations you’d think he has shares in the companies.
    Absolutely everyone is going to get this at some point. If people want to remain unvaccinated and take their chances with it. Let them its their choice. At no point in the entire pandemic was the healthcare system close to collapse. (Not saying individual hospitals were not stretched.)

    This was definitely a pro vaccine and pro government comment worthy of not being deleted or sensored.

  2. I agree Flynn. He acts like vaccination did much of anything about transmission. If you didn’t get vaccinated, oh well. Not my problem. You made your own bed. Leave us alone with masks, “papers”, and restrictions. We’re done.

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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?