Germany mulls making masks mandatory ‘from October to Easter’

The German government is currently drawing up plans to tackle the spread of Covid in the winter. One idea is to make mask wearing mandatory indoors for six months of the year, according to a newspaper report.

Germany mulls making masks mandatory ‘from October to Easter’
A shop in Berlin reminds customers to put on an FFP2 mask in February 2022. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Monika Skolimowska

Plans being intensively discussed by the German Chancellery could see people being told to wear masks in all indoor public spaces during the colder half of the year in a so-called “O-bis-O” (Oktober bis Ostern) scheme, Die Welt newspaper reported on Friday.

The idea is to make masks compulsory during the winter months when Covid cases have been higher since the beginning of the pandemic. Advocates of the plan reportedly hope that it will not only slow the spread of Covid but also hinder other lung infections from spreading at a time of year when flu infections are typically high.

The wording would copy the vocabulary of road rules, which require Germans to put on winter tires between October and Easter.

The rules would likely apply in restaurants, bars and shops. It is unclear whether they would be imposed again in schools and kindergartens.

Currently mask wearing is only obligatory on public transport and in medical and care institutions.

The reported plan could be put into a new version of the Infection Protection Act which is set to expire in September.

However, the government is likely to wait on the findings of a scientific commission before it decides which rules to put into the next version of the act, with the commission tasked with telling the government by the end of the month which restrictions have been effective.

The government has so far refused to officially comment on the Die Welt report.

7-point plan for autumn

Speaking on Friday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach presented his seven-point plan for the autumn when Covid cases are expected to rise, but he made no mention of a possible six-month mask wearing rule.

Lauterbach’s announcement remained thin on detail but included a pledge to use three different types of vaccine to make sure that people received doses that would best protect them.

Other points included developing hygiene concepts for care homes to try and prevent outbreaks among vulnerable residents and a pledge to do everything possible to try and avoid school closures.

“This won’t be a normal autumn,” Lauterbach said, but he stated that ​​”we want to go into it better than we were able to last year and the year before that.”

He added that the key points of a new Infection Protection Act would be published before the Bundestag goes into its summer recess next month.

READ ALSO: German cities call for ‘quick decisions’ on Covid measures for summer

Member comments

  1. What utter BS as an idea. So people have to go to Discos & Concerts indoors & wear masks constantly, but if you eat a meal you naturally can take your mask off for the whole time!
    And of course the Great God Football, being open air, will be fine because people crushed together & shouting into each other’s faces is TOTALLY DIFFERENT!
    I give up with these Government types, they all have no clue.

  2. Pingback: Anonymous
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Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

With infection numbers shooting up once again in Germany, states are set to bring in a new set of Covid measures on October 1st.

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of 'difficult' winter

From Saturday, masks will no longer be required on commercial flights, though people will still be expected to wear an FFP2 mask on long-distance trains.

States will also be given the option to introduce mandatory masks in other public indoor spaces, including on local public transport and in schools. If they choose to bring in masks, they’ll also have the freedom to introduce exceptions to masks for people who are recently vaccinated or who have tested negative for Covid.

States will also be able to introduce compulsory testing in schools and nurseries.

READ ALSO: German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Speaking at a press conference alongside Robert Koch Institute (RKI) chair Lothar Wieler on Friday, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach defended the decision to keep Covid rules in place when other countries in Europe have largely got rid of their pandemic measures. 

“It’s not for me to criticise what other countries are doing,” said Lauterbach. “We have a particularly difficult winter ahead of us due to the energy crisis, we don’t want to make it worse through the Covid crisis.”

The SPD politician also defended plans for mandatory masks for residents and staff in nursing and care homes. Having 40 or 50 vulnerable people together in an enclosed space is “extremely high-risk”, he said. 

Under the new rules set to be introduced on Saturday, residents of care homes will be expected to wear FPP2 masks in all common areas of the home, and will only be able to take them off in their bedrooms.

“For people in nursing homes, the FFP2 mask requirement means a considerable cut in their quality of life,” Regina Görner, chairwoman of the Federal Association of Senior Citizens’ Organisations (Bagso), told DPA:

“The nursing home is their home, in which they can then no longer move freely without a mask.”

Visitors to nursing homes, meanwhile, will have to supply a negative Covid test, while staff will be tested three times a week. 

Under the autumn and winter rules, people across Germany will also be required to wear an FFP2 mask at their doctor’s surgery and in medical outpatient facilities such as hospitals.

“We’re better prepared than last autumn,” Lauterbach told reporters on Friday. “We have the infection numbers under control, we have this wave under control.” 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

Steep rise in cases

As the weather turns colder, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has reported a steep rise in respiratory infections, including Covid-19.

Last week, the number of Covid patients jumped dramatically from 500,000 to 1.2 million per week, with cases rising significantly in every age group.

Meanwhile, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people shot up from 409 on Thursday to 466 on Friday. The previous week, the weekly incidence stood at 294 per 100,000 people. 

The numbers are believed to be partially inflated by the ongoing Oktoberfest beer festival, which is being held for the first time since the pandemic started. In Munich, the location of the festival, the weekly incidence is almost 800. 

Speaking at the press conference in Berlin on Friday, RKI chair Wieler warned people not to get complacent about the threat of infection.

“A mild course of illness simply means not ending up in hospital,” he said. “We should be conscious of how much risk we want take on, and how much risk we can avoid.”

RKI chief Lothar Wieler

Robert Koch Institute chair Lothar Wieler (l) and Heath Minister Karl Lauterbach (r) hold a press conference in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Despite the looming energy crisis, the RKI boss advised the public to ensure that rooms were well ventilated, adding that spaces normally occupied by a large number of people should be aired out more regularly.

He also advised people with Covid symptoms to stay home until they felt better in order to avoid passing on any infections, and warned that people should be especially careful to avoid contact with vulnerable people.

“Just like before, these people need our solidarity,” he said. 

Self-isolation and quarantine rules vary from state to state, but people who test positive for Covid generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10.

In some cases, people can take an additional Covid test in order to end their isolation early.

The RKI has also recommended that people wear a mask in public enclosed spaces. 

READ ALSO: What will the Covid situation in Germany look like this autumn?