The SPD politician said the controversial measure of shutting down schools couldn’t be ruled out as the government prepares for another major Covid wave in autumn.
“I think they (school closures) are very, very unlikely,” he said on ARD’s Anne Will talkshow on Sunday. “They would then be the very last resort. But I would be cautious about ruling them out because we don’t know which variants are coming.”
However, he said he no longer believed full-scale lockdowns to be necessary in the fight against the pandemic.
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“We simply have too good an immune status among the population for that,” he explained.
Lauterbach’s comments are likely to put him on a collision course with Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP), who has recently ruled out the reintroduction of several Covid protection measures, including school closures.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) also said on ARD on Sunday that “there should be no more school closures”.
The Federal Health Minister is currently negotiating with Buschmann on amendments to the Infection Protection Act, which provides the legal basis for Covid measures like masks and testing.
At the moment, the legislation provides states with very limited powers to bring in new Covid rules: since April, they have been largely restricted to masks on public transport and testing in clinics. However, the current version of the Act expires on September 23rd.
With fears of a renewed sharp rise in infections – and possible new variants that could cause more severe illness – the Health Ministry wants to amend the Infection Protection Act to give states more powers to introduce rules such as mandatory testing and indoor masks in autumn.
Lauterbach said the planned measures should give state governments the tools they need to cover different scenarios that could happen. “We must also be prepared for very severe variants,” he said. “This has to be a comprehensive set of instruments, not a narrow-gauge issue.”