Germany has likely reached peak of Covid wave, says RKI

Health experts believe Germany has reached the peak of the Omicron wave - but warn that infection rates are still high.

An FFP2 mask lies on the ground in Frankfurt.
An FFP2 mask lies on the ground in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

“The peak of the wave has probably been reached,” said the RKI in its latest weekly report, adding: “But the infection pressure remains very high with more than 1.5 million Covid-19 cases reported to the RKI within one week.”

The latest wave is said to have been fuelled by the Omicron subtype BA.2. According to the RKI, the share of the subtype in infections across Germany has risen to over 80 percent. 

The RKI said that in the Omicron wave, the number of people to develop severe illness is “significantly lower” compared to previous waves, even though there is a high number of infections.

There is still some pressure on the health care system due to Covid patients needing treatment, and to staff taking leave due to sickness or quarantine.

But the RKI said the strain is “moderate” compared to previous waves.  

READ ALSO: What to do if you test positive for Covid in Germany

The number of Omicron-associated deaths in relation to new infections “so far remains at a lower level than in previous waves”, said the RKI, but added that it remains “significant in absolute terms”, with around 200 Covid-related deaths per day.

The RKI said fewer cases of severe illness is due to the “increasing build-up of immunity”, especially due to vaccinations combined with a lower proportion of severe disease in infections caused by the Omicron variant.

Germany has began significantly easing Covid rules, with masks no longer mandatory in many places.

But the RKI said that the development of the pandemic depends on the behaviour of people.

“The further course of the pandemic depends on whether larger parts of the population continue to behave cautiously and with consideration even if government measures are reduced, or to what extent possible infectious diseases can be transmitted,” health experts said. 

According to official data, there were 1,586.4 Covid infections per 100,000 people on Friday. 

The RKI also reported that the number of new infections reported within 24 hours was 252,530, compared to 274,901 the previous day and 296,498 a week ago.

Within the latest 24 hour period, 304 Covid-related deaths were reported. 

READ ALSO: Will Germany’s Covid infections ease up in time for Easter?

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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 across 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?