Germany calls up army reserves to help fight coronavirus pandemic

Germany is calling up tens of thousands of reservists to help in the country's battle against the coronavirus pandemic, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Thursday.

Germany calls up army reserves to help fight coronavirus pandemic
Photo: DPA

The army began mobilising its first batches of reserve troops over the weekend, said the minister, adding that it will next standby “other reservist troops in through very targeted calls, and through a general call”.

They would be used to help treat patients, resolve transport bottlenecks and provide support to police and local authorities as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus soar.

Europe's biggest economy has a pool of 75,000 reservists for whom the army has updated contact details, the minister said.

Some 2,300 reservists responded to the weekend mobilisation call, including more than 900 who can be deployed to health services, said Kramp-Karrenbauer.


Describing the fight against COVID-19 a marathon, the minister said soldiers can step in when the capacity of civil forces is exhausted.

“We can and will deliver what is needed from us,” she said.

The German government is accelerating efforts to ramp up capacity to treat patients.

The total number of reported infections in Germany grew to 12,327 cases as of Thursday at 8am, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Robert Koch Institute

But depending on an individual state's policies, many other possible cases may not have been tested because they show only mild symptoms or have not been in contact with a known case. 

Over 4,200 of the cases in Germany are in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state.

Out of all the confirmed cases since January, there have been a total of 105 recoveries. There have also been 28 deaths in Germany due to the coronavirus.

Speaking at a separate press conference, Health Minister Jens Spahn said regulations will be eased for employees in medical services to help in hospitals, to take the pressure off qualified nurses and doctors.

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Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”