Should Germany have its own Covid ‘Freedom Day’ in six weeks?

Should Germany have its own Covid 'Freedom Day' in six weeks?
People partying in London's Leicester Square on September 12th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/PA Wire | Dominic Lipinski
A high profile health expert called for Germany to follow in the UK's footsteps and get rid of Covid rules as part of its own 'Freedom Day'. But the idea has been widely slammed.

What’s happening?

Andreas Gassen, the head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), said Germany should take inspiration from England and lift Covid restrictions at the end of October.

The UK government removed almost all Covid-19 legal restrictions – such as mandatory mask wearing – in England on July 19th. 

Since then, England has seen a fairly high number of infections though it’s gone up and down. After cases fell at the end of July, the average number of daily confirmed cases climbed again in August and early September but have started to ease off again.

“After the experience of Britain, we should also have the courage to do what worked on the island,” Gassen told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung at the weekend.

“So what’s needed now is a clear announcement from politicians: in six weeks, it’s Freedom Day here too! On October 30th, all restrictions will be lifted!”

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The Our World in Data map shows the number of Covid cases per million people in the UK compared to Germany. 

Gassen said the October 30th deadline would give everyone the chance to go and get vaccinated if they haven’t already. 

He said that in the UK the healthcare system “did not collapse” after Freedom Day.

“That’s encouraging, especially since the German healthcare system is significantly more efficient than the British one and could treat significantly more seriously ill patients, which we hope we won’t have either,” the KBV boss explained.

Without the announcement of a Freedom Day, the pandemic would drag on in Germany, he said. 

What’s the reaction?

There’s been a lot of pushback. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun said he didn’t believe it was a good idea because there could be another Covid wave without adequate vaccination protection. 

“We should not promise to lift the restrictions until the percentage of those vaccinated has increased significantly, especially in the older age groups – in other words, we achieve community immunity,” Braun said.

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SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach, slammed the approach, saying it was “simply testing what our health care system can withstand, how many patients can also be treated”.

He also said it was “unrealistic” to hope to motivate people to get vaccinated by announcing a “Freedom Day.” He suggested issuing a goal of an 85 percent vaccination rate among the adult population and announcing that substantial relaxations could come when that mark is reached.

As things stand, around 81 percent of over-16s are fully vaccinated in the UK while about 65 percent of the population is fully-jabbed. 

In Germany, vaccines against Covid have been licensed for those aged 12 and above so far. This age group includes 73.9 million people. At least one vaccine dose has been given to 55.9 million people so far. Of these, 52.5 million people have already been fully vaccinated.

Around 67.2 percent of the total population has received at least one jab in Germany, and 63.1 percent are fully vaccinated. 

Andrew Ullmann, of the pro-business FDP, said he thought the discussion about lifting Covid rules was the right way forward. However, he said it was too early to give a specific date. In the coming weeks, he said, Covid developments have to be closely monitored.

Lower Saxony’s Health Minister Daniela Behrens (SPD) opposed the move. She said it is “still too reckless”.

What’s the Covid situation in Germany?

On Monday around 3,736 Covid infections were reported within the last 24 hours and 13 deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 71 cases per 100,000 people. The incidence has remained stable – and has even decreased in the last weeks. But hospital admissions have gone up. 


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