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COVID-19 RULES

German doctors slam plans for Covid masks in schools

German public health officials have criticised plans for masks in schools to return in autumn, arguing that the measure is 'unnecessary.'

A school pupil places a disposable mask in the bin
A school pupil places a disposable mask in the bin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Friso Gentsch

According to doctors in the public health service, mandatory masks for school children should only be introduced if new, more dangerous variants of Covid emerge in the colder months.

“With the current variants, there is no need for compulsory masks in class,” Johannes Nießen, chairman of the Federal Association of Public Health Service Doctors, told the Funke Media Group on Wednesday. 

Masks significantly impair learning, Nießen said.

“They affect language development, make foreign language teaching more difficult and disrupt communication because they cover half the field of vision,” he added.

In the view of the public health officials, masks in class should only be used if and when a more infectious, and at the same time more threatening, variant than Omicron emerges.

The federal states should therefore “allow lessons without masks for as long as possible,” Neißen said.

It comes amid calls for the government to drop the mask-wearing requirement on long-distance trains, having already announced the end of mandatory masks on flights.

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On Tuesday, rail lobby group Allianz pro Schiene urged the Health Ministry to rethink its Covid measures.

“The federal government urgently needs to find a uniform solution,” said managing director Dirk Flege. “If the mask requirement is abolished in aeroplanes, this must also apply to all other means of public transport.”

In October, a new set of Covid rules is set to come into force that would see masks remain in place on long-distance trains, while states will be able to decide whether they enforce the rule on local public transport.

If the Covid situation worsens, states would be able to tighten rules further such as by re-introducing mandatory masks in schools.

However, school closures and further lockdowns have so far been ruled out. 

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COVID-19 RULES

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

People in Germany have to isolate at home for at least five days if they test positive for Covid. But four states want to see a change to this rule.

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

In a joint letter, the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein called on Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to drop the isolation requirement for people who get a Covid infection in Germany. 

Baden-Württemberg health minister Manne Lucha, of the Greens, said there should be a move towards people taking personal responsibility rather than the state ordering an isolation period, reported the Tagesschau. 

“We should gradually get into the mode of treating a corona infection like any other infectious disease where the rule is: if you are sick, stay at home,” said the Green politician.

The rules on isolation differ slightly from state to state in Germany, but the general requirement is that people who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

In some states, and for hospital and care workers, a negative test is required to end the isolation period early.

Several politicians – as well as Andreas Gassen, chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, have previously spoken out in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

READ ALSO: Should Germany get rid of Covid mandatory isolation?

The four German states called on Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, to change the rules by October 10th.

In their letter, they refer to Austria, where the isolation obligation has been replaced by so-called “traffic restrictions” since August 1st.

Under these rules, people who get Covid-19 have to wear an FFP2 mask for 10 days in most places, and they are not allowed to visit nursing homes and clinics. They can, however, go to their workplace.

“The end of mandatory isolation has not led to any relevant increase in reported cases in Austria,” the four German health ministers said in their letter.

They argued that much of the population in Germany is immunised, either through vaccination or infection.

However, Lauterbach has so far rejected calls to get rid of the isolation requirement. He said that due to Covid cases rising, he didn’t want to “add fuel to the fire” and increase the risk of infections occurring in companies or at gatherings.

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU), said he was worried about lots of people having to take time off work to isolate at the same time, which could put pressure on critical infrastructure. 

Schleswig-Holstein’s health minister Kerstin von der Decken (CDU), said the adjustment of the isolation rules would be “a step on the way back to normality.”

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