Return of compulsory masks? Preparations for Corona regulations in autumn

Berlin · In the midst of the Covid summer wave, politicians are looking ahead to the approaching colder season: What state protection regulations should be ready then? There are already signs of consensus on one instrument.

  There could be compulsory face masks again in the autumn.

There could be compulsory face masks again in the autumn.

Foto: dpa/Marijan Murat

In the discussions about how to fight the spread of Coronavirus in autumn, regulations on mandatory face masks are emerging. "The effectiveness of masks indoors is indisputable," Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) told the newspapers of the Funke-Mediengruppe (Saturday). "That's why some form of mandatory masks indoors will certainly play a role in our concept." Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), who is discussing new regulations in the Infection Protection Act with Buschmann, is in principle in favour of a face mask mandate.

Buschmann said: "We have to take very seriously what awaits us in autumn and winter." He said he was confident "that we will have a concept by the end of the month, which we will then discuss with the Länder in August, and in September we will bring the amendment to the Infection Protection Act through parliament." The proposal will create clear and understandable rules that are proportionate, he said. "We are united in the coalition that there will be no more lockdowns, no more blanket school closures and no more curfews."

The Coronavirus provisions in the Infection Protection Act, which were cut back sharply in the spring, mainly at the insistence of the FDP, expire on 23 September. They are the legal basis for protective measures in the Länder and define possible instruments. A general face mask mandate for events or when shopping thus ended at the beginning of April. Masks are still compulsory nationwide on long-distance trains and planes. The regulations for local trains and buses as well as doctors’ offices and clinics is regulated by the Länder. After the summer wave, a further increase in the number of infections is expected for the colder season.

Bavaria's Health Minister Klaus Holetschek welcomed the fact that Buschmann finally described the effectiveness of masks as "indisputable", especially indoors. "It has taken long enough to come to this conclusion," the CSU politician told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Saturday. He said the traffic light coalition must now deliver a draft for the federal states. He said it was of central importance for the Länder that they can take all necessary protective measures quickly, effectively and within the law.

In the face of much criticism, Lauterbach defended his call for more second booster vaccinations, not only for people aged 60 or 70 and older. The seven-day incidence, including the number of unreported cases, is probably between 1500 and 2000, he wrote on Twitter on Saturday. "Therefore, I am not wrong in recommending even younger people with very many contacts to consider 4th vaccination after consulting their GP. The 4th vaccination is better than the infection."

Almost four million vaccine doses have expired

In Germany, about 3.9 million Coronavirus vaccine doses expired between the beginning of December 2021 and the end of June. This was announced by the Ministry of Health in Berlin in response to a question by Stephan Pilsinger (CSU), member of the Bundestag, first reported by the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND/Sonntag) and also available to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. It concerns vaccine doses from the manufacturer Moderna. However, the data on the expiry would only be available if doctors and pharmacies had reported them to the pharmaceutical wholesalers.

In total, the Federal Government had ordered about 134.3 million vaccine doses during the period. No doses had been donated, it said. The international vaccine alliance Gavi had declared that it was no longer accepting donations at present, as there was no demand.

According to a report in the newspaper "Bild am Sonntag", there is a lack of implementation of the Coronavirus vaccination requirement for nursing and health care staff in the federal states. This has been in force for employees in facilities for groups requiring special protection since mid-March. According to the newspaper's information from 12 of the 16 federal states, more than 190,000 unvaccinated health workers have been identified, but only 70 bans have been issued - in North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony and Brandenburg. Fines are also possible. However, the Länder have apparently made little or no use of these. The information is based on a survey of the health ministries of the Länder.

The official seven-day incidence was given by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Saturday as 752.7 - after 719.2 reported new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days the day before. However, the incidence does not provide a complete picture, mainly because by far not all infected persons take PCR tests, but only these are recorded.

(Original text: dpa; Translation: Jean Lennox)
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