“The direction we are heading in is not a good one,” the SPD politician said at a press conference in Berlin on Friday, referring to rising numbers of Covid infections.
He said that it would make sense to introduce less stringent restrictions now than to have to bring in drastic ones later on. “Now is really the time,” he said.
Under the current Covid regulations, which came into force on October 1st, mask-wearing is only mandatory on long-distance trains and for residents and staff in nursing and care homes.
The states have 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 for people who are recently vaccinated or who have tested negative for Covid.
The Health Minister made it clear, however, that with advanced vaccines, medicines and more accurate data, the tools are in place for keeping the pandemic under control this autumn and winter. He added that the federal government is doing everything it can to ensure that the Covid crisis stays in the background while the country continues to struggle to deal with the effects of the war in Ukraine.
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In that spirit, the Health Ministry’s new campaign, called “I Protect Myself”, seeks to promote vaccinations, but also mutual caution and protection with masks, in a way that focuses on individual responsibility and “sticking together as a community”.
In the campaign, 84 “real people” talk about their experiences with Covid – some funny and some “not so funny”, with each representing a million citizens. The campaign will be shown on television, social networks, in newspapers and on posters. Lauterbach repeatedly emphasised that it is not intended to scare people.