Germany should avoid talk of ‘freedom day’, says Health Minister

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach says Germany is in the grip of a severe Covid wave and has urged states to make use of a law that will keep tougher measures in place.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach speaks at a press conference on Friday.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach speaks at a press conference on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

In a press conference held on Friday in Berlin, Lauterbach said that the pandemic was “far from over”.

“We are in a situation where we cannot simply wait and see,” Lauterbach said.

On Thursday, German health offices reported more than 300,000 infections within a day – a record high.

READ ALSO: Germany logs 1.5 million weekly infections as Omicron subtype spreads

But Lauterbach said the real figures are likely twice as high. 

“It is unfortunately not a good situation,” he said. 

The Health Minister also warned that the death toll could rise in the coming weeks, even if new infections stabilise.

On Friday Germany reported 296,498 Covid infections per 100,000 people and 288 deaths within the latest 24 hour period. The 7-day incidence was 1,7654.4 infections per 100,000 people.

‘No freedom day’

Germany is in the process of relaxing Covid restrictions. In fact, the country was set to drop almost all Covid restrictions on March 20th, but most states used a transitional period to extend current restrictions until the beginning of April.

The amended Infection Protection Act has been met with widespread protest from the states who have slammed it for being irresponsible and not easy to implement. 

However, Lauterbach urged states to make use of a ‘hotspot’ mechanism in the new Covid protection laws that mean tougher restrictions – like the ‘G’ rules for entering places like restaurants – can remain if needed.

“There can be no talk of a ‘freedom day’ – quite the opposite,” said the SPD politician. 

“We must also use the hotspot regulation.”

He cited Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania as an example of how the rule could be applied by state parliaments. 

The northern state this week voted to extend Covid restrictions until April 27th using the ‘hotspot’ regulation as a legal basis.

Lauterbach said an overload of the health system can be measured and used to activate the regulation – for instance if scheduled operations have to be postponed or patients transferred.

He also reiterated that hotspots can be an entire federal state.

During the press conference Lauterbach urged people to get vaccinated – and for risk groups to get their second booster shot. 

The Health Minister even outlined how Germany is in a different position to countries like the UK.

Unlike in Britain, where the number of cases is also rising, there are five to 10 times as many people over the age of 60 at risk in Germany, he said. 

Member comments

  1. A. Lauterbach really wants 16 state size Hotspots so he can push his mandates through.

    The UK is absolutely comparable. Germany has a slightly higher vaccination rate. (Only very slight).
    The same percentage of infection amongst the population.
    A lower average death rate around 150-200 per day.

    Age distribution is at ages 15-64 is 52.3% in Germany and 54.9% in England.

    You can compare the 2 but lauterbach needs his sptiz.
    Pro mandate pro jab pro lockdown yada yada. Whe will this madness end?

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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?