German health minister urges states to bring back mask-wearing indoors

Germany’s Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SDP) has urged states to reintroduce mask requirements for indoor spaces due to high Covid-19 infection numbers, while launching his Ministry's new Covid campaign on Friday.

Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Federal Minister of Health, attends a press conference on the current Covid situation in Berlin.
Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Federal Minister of Health, attends a press conference in 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

“The direction we are heading in is not a good one,” the SPD politician said at a press conference in Berlin on Friday, referring to rising numbers of Covid infections.

He said that it would make sense to introduce less stringent restrictions now than to have to bring in drastic ones later on. “Now is really the time,” he said.

Under the current Covid regulations, which came into force on October 1st, mask-wearing is only mandatory on long-distance trains and for residents and staff in nursing and care homes.  

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

The states have the option to introduce mandatory masks in other public indoor spaces, including on local public transport and in schools. If they choose to bring in masks, they’ll also have the freedom to introduce exceptions for people who are recently vaccinated or who have tested negative for Covid.

The Health Minister made it clear, however, that with advanced vaccines, medicines and more accurate data, the tools are in place for keeping the pandemic under control this autumn and winter. He added that the federal government is doing everything it can to ensure that the Covid crisis stays in the background while the country continues to struggle to deal with the effects of the war in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: What should I do if I get Covid in Germany?

In that spirit, the Health Ministry’s new campaign, called “I Protect Myself”, seeks to promote vaccinations, but also mutual caution and protection with masks, in a way that focuses on individual responsibility and “sticking together as a community”.

In the campaign, 84 “real people” talk about their experiences with Covid – some funny and some “not so funny”, with each representing a million citizens. The campaign will be shown on television, social networks, in newspapers and on posters. Lauterbach repeatedly emphasised that it is not intended to scare people.

Member comments

  1. Everything this man does is to scare people. All he’s done throughout the pandemic is run around screaming how were all going to die. And, are these new jabs as well tested as pfizers? You know, the one where they didn’t even test to see if it stops transmission before selling it because they were moving at the speed of science. Or the money printer. Or was it tested on volunteers first? Or just eight mice as is what I’ve heard.

    And as for masks. We still do not have any conclusive evidence for their effectiveness. Even that committee said they assume a well fitted mask might help. But they don’t know. Once you leave Germany basically no one wears them. The pandemic is over in most other countries. But not Germany, they haven’t finished milking this cash cow for every last cent quite yet.

    And censored.

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

Germany will end the requirement to wear face masks on long-distance trains and buses from February 2nd as the coronavirus pandemic loosened its grip on the country, authorities announced on Friday.

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

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach made the announcement after consultations with ministers from Germany’s 16 federal states, saying “the infection situation has stabilised.”

Lauterbach, however, encouraged people to continue wearing masks voluntarily “on the basis of personal responsibility”, adding “the virus should not be trivialised” and warning of potential longer-term impacts.

Several factors contributed to the policy change, Lauterbach said, including a higher level of immunity in the public and a reduced chance of new mutations, which meant a winter resurgence of the virus was unlikely.

The situation is “tense but manageable” in hospitals, Lauterbach added.

The requirement, which has been in place since the early stages of the pandemic, had been scheduled to expire on April 7nd but will now end sooner.

A number of German states – including Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein – have already relaxed mask rules in regional public transport, while several others are set to do so at the start of February. 

READ ALSO: Several German states to drop Covid masks on public transport in February

However, rules on the country’s long-distance train and bus network remain the central government’s responsibility.

Germany was one of the few remaining countries in Europe to keep a mask requirement, with many having scrapped rules or downgraded them to recommendations in 2022.

Alongside Germany, Spain is the only other large European country to maintain mask rules on long-distance trains and public transport, with the Spanish government announcing in October that these will remain in place until at least March 2023.

Free “test-to-release” tests to end 

In another key move away from pandemic measures, the government has also announced that people will have to pay for their Covid tests in order to end self-isolation from January 16th.

Medical staff who need to test before returning to work and visitors to clinics and care homes will still receive their tests free of charge until February 28th. 

Self-isolation rules vary from state to state, but some require a negative test if people want to stop isolating after five days instead of the full ten.

These are currently funded by the government, but funding is due to end on January 15th. 

The news comes after a group of five states announced that they would be ending mandatory self-isolation for people infected with Covid.

Instead, people will be required to wear masks while out and about and observe social distancing rules. 

READ ALSO: Four German states poised to end mandatory Covid isolation