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COVID-19

What can Europe do to battle ‘pandemic fatigue’?

The World Health Organization warned European countries Tuesday about "pandemic fatigue" which it says threatens the continent's ability to tackle the coronavirus.

What can Europe do to battle 'pandemic fatigue'?
Empty seats and tables of a street cafe are seen at Alexanderplatz square in Berlin on March 16, 2020. AFP

“Although fatigue is measured in different ways, and levels vary per country, it is now estimated to have reached over 60 percent in some cases,” WHO Europe director Dr Hans Kluge said.

He said this is based on “aggregated survey data from countries across the region.”

Citizens have made “huge sacrifices” over the last eight months to try and contain the coronavirus, he said in a statement.

“In such circumstances it is easy and natural to feel apathetic and demotivated, to experience fatigue.” 

So what can governments do?

Kluge called on European authorities to listen to the public and work with them in “new and innovative ways” to reinvigorate the fight against Covid-19, which is on the increase throughout Europe.

He cited a local authority in the UK which has consulted communities to gauge their feelings, and a municipality in Denmark where students have been involved in drawing up restrictions that allow them to return to university.

Turkey has employed social media polls to understand public sentiment, while Germany's government “has consulted philosophers, historians, theologians, and behavioural and social scientists,” Kluge said.

The WHO's Europe region, which encompasses 53 countries including Russia, has seen more than 6.2 million cases and nearly 241,000 deaths related to the virus, according to the organisation's official statistics.

READ MORE: Around Europe – How countries are battling to prevent a second wave of Covid-19

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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