The remaining restrictions – or the requirement to wear a mask in surgeries, clinics and nursing homes – are falling away a couple of days after German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) made an announcement that the Covid-19 pandemic is “over.”
“We have successfully managed the pandemic in Germany,” said Lauterbach at a press conference on Wednesday.
In light of low infection numbers and virus variants deemed to be less dangerous, Germany has been steadily peeling away the last of its longstanding measures.
The obligation to wear a mask on public transport was lifted on February 2nd.
During the height of the pandemic between 2020 and 2021, Germany introduced its strictest measures, which saw the closure of public institutions including schools and daycare centres (Kitas).
“The strategy of coping with the crisis had been successful overall,” said Lauterbach, while also admitting: “I don’t believe that the long school closures were entirely necessary.”
Since the first coronavirus cases in Germany were detected in January 2020, there have been over 38 million reported cases of the virus, and 171,272 people who died from or with the virus, according to the Robert Koch Institute.
In surgeries and clinics, mask rules can remain in place on a voluntary basis – which some facilities said they would consider based on their individual situations.
“Of course, practices can stipulate a further obligation to wear masks as part of their house rules, and likewise everyone can continue to wear a mask voluntarily,” the head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), Andreas Gassen, told DPA.
But Gassen said it was good there would no longer be an “automatic obligation”, and that individuals could take the responsibility of protecting themselves and others into their own hands.
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“Hospitals are used to establishing hygiene measures to protect their patients, even independently of the coronavirus,” the head of the German Hospital Association (DKG), Gerald Gaß, told DPA.
With the end of the last statutory Covid measures, he said, we are entering “a new phase” in dealing with this illness.
“Hospitals will then decide individually according to the respective situation which measures they will take,” he said, for example based on the ages and illnesses of the patients being treated.