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

High profile German health expert Christian Drosten said he expects Germany to be hit with a severe Covid wave in the colder months. Meanwhile, the Health Minister has ruled out lockdowns. What can we expect from autumn and winter?

A person holds an FFP2 mask.
A person holds an FFP2 mask. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

Germany has prepared a new set of Covid regulations for autumn and winter with plans for masks on long-distance transport, and the possibility for states to bring in tougher rules.

So what kind of situation are we facing?

Experts have been giving different forecasts on how strong they think the Covid wave will be in Germany after summer. 

Virologist Christian Drosten, who has previously advised the German government during the pandemic, said he expected a “strong incidence wave” of Covid-19 infections “before December”.

Drosten, director of virology at Berlin’s Charité University Hospital, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in an interview at the weekend that virus variants would result in many cases of Covid. Even with mild courses of the disease, he said this is likely to lead to significant disruption to work and businesses. 

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

“Infected people may not have to go to hospital, but a great many could be off sick for a week,” Drosten said. “If there are too many at once, it becomes a problem.”

Drosten pointed to evidence that shows protection against onward transmission does not last long with the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“An infected person whose last infection was more than three months ago carries just as much virus in their throat and therefore can probably infect just as many others as someone who has never been infected,” he said.

Drosten said it was important for policymakers to monitor the situation closely and take action before vital services are affected by lots of people being off sick at the same time. 

Virologist Christian Drosten in January 2022.

Virologist Christian Drosten in January 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

“In an emergency, immediate and quite drastic decisions are needed.” Drosten said. He expects that mask-wearing indoors will become necessary again, for instance. 

He advised the business community to prepare for a wave of illness.

“I also assume that there will definitely be companies that will have to close for two weeks,” he said. 

Meanwhile, analyst Lars Kaderali said he didn’t think there would be a major wave. 

Kaderali, who is a member of the German government’s Corona Expert Council, believes that many people have been immunised by contact with the virus in recent months.

He said infection numbers have dropped without any special measures being taken.

“That just means the virus has really run through (the population),” he told DPA. Due to the broader immunity in addition to vaccinations, Kaderali said he does not expect the winter wave to be too severe – at least until or if a completely new variant emerges. Rather, he said, he expects the incidence of infection to remain at the current levels for some time, or possibly even to decline.

Lockdowns ‘not justifiable’

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, said he expected a “moderately severe” autumn wave.

In the Rheinische Post, he expressed confidence that the government was “very well prepared for all scenarios”.

“We will keep the corona wave under control this year,” he said. 

Lauterbach also said that lockdowns were “no longer justifiable” unless a serious pandemic situation returns. “But I don’t see that danger,” he said.

“We no longer need closures of schools or the hospitality industry,” the minister said. 

As The Local reported, the Bundestag passed a set of Covid rules that will be in place from October 1st until April 7th 2023. 

The plan includes some measures that will apply nationwide, while the states can also decide on regional requirements depending on the pandemic situation.

Approval is still needed from the Bundesrat, which represents the states.

OPINION: Germany’s autumn Covid rules are a giant mess beyond parody 

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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.”