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Masks and Covid tests should continue in Germany’s schools until 2022, say health officials

Schoolchildren in Germany should be wearing mandatory masks and testing regularly for Covid until spring next year, the boss of the Robert Koch Institute has said.

Masks and Covid tests should continue in Germany's schools until 2022, say health officials
An FFP2 mask next to a child in a German classroom. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Lothar Wieler, RKI chief, called for protective measures in schools to continue due to the expected spread of the Delta variant.

“We recommend that testing and wearing mouth-nose protection continue in schools. From today’s perspective, I would say that should be the case until next spring,” Wieler told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

“On the one hand, we want to keep the incidence of infection low, after all, because children can also become seriously ill. And on the other hand, of course, we are aiming for schools to remain open.”

Wieler said the RKI expects the incidence of infection in schools to rise: “There will be increased cases in children – already we are seeing major outbreaks of the Delta variant in schools.”

READ ALSO: Where (and how) are Germany’s Delta variant Covid cases spreading?

When will Germany see the Delta spike?

The spread of the Delta variant depends on everyone’s behaviour, said the RKI chief. 

“Particularly when indoors we should continue to wear mouth-nose protection, reduce contacts and take advantage of testing opportunities,” he said.

Wieler said it’s difficult to predict when Germany will see the number of Covid cases rise again. In recent week, Covid infections have fallen dramatically.

On Friday Germany logged 774 Covid cases within 24 hours, and the 7-day incidence was 6.2 infections per 100,000 residents. 

“It also depends on the progress of vaccination drive as to when numbers will rise again,” said Wieler. “Therefore, the timing is difficult to predict. What is certain, however, is that there will be an increase in numbers again in the autumn and winter.”

Wieler said nobody could rule out stricter lockdown measures coming into force again.

“But what I know for sure is that if we remain cautious now, if we continue to wear masks now in closed rooms, if we continue to keep our distance and vaccination rates continue to go up, then we can avoid this,” he said.

“I am convinced of that. I can only express my hope that together we can do that.”

READ ALSO: Share of Delta variant Covid cases in Germany almost doubles in a week

So far there is no evidence to suggest the approved vaccines are not effective against the Delta variant, said Wieler.

“But of course we are concerned because new variants will emerge all the time,” he added. “They need to be detected quickly and then contact tracing needs to be done intensively.

“The lower the incidences are, the better health departments can do that.”

Vocabulary

To recommend – empfehlen

Occurrence or incidence of infection – (das) Infektionsgeschehen

To fall ill – erkranken

To predict – vorhersagen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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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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