Bavaria’s health minister calls for extension of mask requirement

Klaus Holetschek (CSU), the health minister of Bavaria, has criticised the early end to Covid restrictions as well as the unclear 'hotspot' rules.

Bavaria's health minister calls for extension of mask requirement
Klaus Holetschek (CSU), Gesundheitsminister von Bayern, nimmt nach einer Sitzung des bayerischen Kabinetts an einer Pressekonferenz teil. (zu dpa «Bayerns Gesundheitsminister Holetschek positiv auf Corona getestet») +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Following the so-called ‘freedom day’ on March 20th, most German states have been following a transitional phase-out of Covid restrictions, meaning that rules such as indoor mask wearing and 2G or 3G access rules for restaurants and bars will continue to be in force until the beginning of April.

But Bavaria’s Health Minister, Klaus Holetschek (CSU), who has previously criticised the early relaxing of Covid measures, has now called for an extension of mask wearing in Bavaria for another four weeks.

READ ALSO: German ‘freedom day’ arrives but states delay end to restrictions

In an interview with the Augsburger Allgemeine Newspaper, Holetschek criticised the early ending of Covid restrictions and said that “the whole of Germany is one hotspot…almost everyone outside the government quarter in Berlin has already realised this”. For this reason, he called for extending the obligation to wear masks in indoor areas in Bavaria for another four weeks.

Unclear hotspot rules

The Covid ‘hotspot regulation’ is part of the new legal framework which allows states to reintroduce additional measures – such as having to show vaccination status or proof of recovery to visit restaurants and bars – if the health system becomes overloaded or dangerous new virus variants are detected. But there are currently no threshold values for when this rule should take effect.

Bavaria’s health minister also criticised the lack of clarity with the rules and called for nationwide uniform criteria for the application of the hotspot rule, or an extension of the transition period. “The hotspot rules are far too woolly and do not allow us to implement them with legal certainty,” said Holetschek.

It is also disputed whether it is legally possible to declare an entire federal state a hotspot. “There is a big gap between what Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann say,” Holetschek said.

READ ALSO: German states clash with government over new Covid protection laws

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, for example, has already declared the whole state a hotspot, while states such as Baden-Wurttemberg and Lower Saxony see no grounds for a hotspot regulation at the moment, despite the record number of new infections.

On Monday, the state health ministers will meet Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) to discuss the hotspot rules in more detail and to clarify at what point the rule can take effect for regions with high Covid numbers once the transition period is over.

The criticism and reluctance to reduce Covid restrictions comes after the nationwide number of Covid infections detected since the beginning of the pandemic passed the 20 million mark over the weekend.

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

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) gave the figure of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week on Sunday as 1723.8, slightly lower than the previous day (1758.4), although the new figure does not include data from Baden-Württemberg and Brandenburg.

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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?