‘Pandemic not yet over’: German doctors call for renewed Covid restrictions

Despite the current wave of Covid infections subsiding, a leading doctors' association said on Sunday that German hospitals were struggling to cope with all their patients.

‘Pandemic not yet over’: German doctors call for renewed Covid restrictions
A discarded FFP2 masks lies on the ground in Stuttgart. Photo: dpa | Marijan Murat

“The pandemic is not over yet, and the current political dispute is endangering our ability to treat patients,” Michael Weber from the Association of Senior Hospital Physicians told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. 

Weber said that 20 percent of hospitals were still complaining about excessive strain on their emergency care facilities.

He said that this was reason enough for state governments to start activating the “hotspot” clause in the new Disease Control Law, which allows for the reintroduction of face masks in indoor areas and social distancing.

A good ten percent of beds in general and intensive care units continue to be occupied by patients with Covid symptoms, Weber said.

Surveys suggest that hospitals are still postponing surgeries due to the fact that so many staff have tested positive for the virus.

Cases sink

The warning comes despite the fact that registered new cases of infection are falling sharply.

The 7-day incidence fell to 1,098 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Sunday morning from 1,142 on Saturday and 1,181 on Friday.  A week ago, an incidence of 1,458 was recorded.

Health departments in Germany reported 55,471 new infections on Sunday. A further 36 deaths were recorded nationwide within 24 hours, compared with 42 a week ago.

Easter testing

With Easter coming up next weekend, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Family Minister Anne Spiegel (Greens) called on people to use antigen testing and masks when visiting family.

“The number of cases is declining sharply. To keep it that way, everyone should get tested before an Easter trip or test themselves,” Lauterbach wrote on Twitter. He also advised people to voluntarily wear masks indoors.

Controversy over vaccine purchases

According to the Health Ministry, Germany still has 77 million doses of Covid vaccine in stock, more than 10 million of which will reach their expiration date by the end of June. A further 50 million will pass the expiration date in the third quarter.

It has ordered a total of 677 million vaccine doses for the period between 2021 and 2023, more than half of them from Biontech/Pfizer.

The health policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Tino Sorge (CDU), accused Lauterbach of a “shopping frenzy” in an interview with Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“The minister no longer knows any limits when it comes to ordering vaccines. He orders whatever is there – the actual need and the costs no longer play any role for him,” Sorge said. In view of the tight budget situation, he warned that Lauterbach would have to account for “what costs have been incurred by the federal budget as a result of his unnecessary orders.”

Member comments

  1. Are we still pretending that the removal of unvaccinated healthcare professionals has nothing to do with hospitals struggling? They canceled that in the UK because they would have lost 10% of qualified doctors (plus other staff.) The intensive care numbers are now the lowest they have been since November 1st 2021. Although I would have expected numbers in hospital to rise when such a large number of people are infected. How many of these patients are there for other reasons? Why in this day and age where we have access to so much information can we not find out any details other than hospitals full.

    As for the sheer jaw dropping numbers of vaccines ordered. Thats, (my maths is not fantastic) about 8 doses per man woman and child. Why did we need to order that many?
    I con only come up with a couple of explanations.
    The government were grossly incompetent
    Corporate greed.
    They knew repeated jabs were needed and they led us on with untruths. Which would pose the question of which other assertions made by both governments are fundamentally untrue.
    Data from Israel shows the 4th jab to loose its efficacy after just 6 weeks. So we get a booster every 6 weeks and wear masks and test forever?

    There’s far too many people around now that want a return to lunacy. Nothing we have done in the last 2 years has made a difference. What would change this time?. Numbers have gone up and down regardless of lockdowns or unvaxxed only lockdowns. Or double masks and triple shots. We could go down the zero covid route locking down entire cities and starving the populous. Its working so well with their record daily case numbers. With drones asking people to ignore the souls desire for freedom. Smells like a utopia to me.

    I’ve written too much and this is probably going too go into the memory hole. At least I have all this time on my hands.

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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?