Germany weighing return to COMPULSORY mask-wearing to tackle ‘winter Covid wave’ as cases rise in Europe
GERMANY is weighing up a return to compulsory mask-wearing to tackle a “winter Covid wave” as cases rise sharply in Europe, according to a report.
Berlin wants to enforce the lockdown-era regulation from October to March, it was reported today.
The proposals would mean mask-wearing in all public spaces – including bars, restaurants and shops – during the winter months to slow the spread of Covid in what’s being dubbed a “O-bis-O” (Oktober bis Ostern) scheme, according to German newspaper Die Welt.
Covid is known to spread easier in the winter months as people spend more time indoors so supporters of the move hope it counteracts that trend and halts other flus.
Germany recently reported between 50 and 130 coronavirus-related deaths a day, according to official figures.
It’s not clear of the rules would apply to school and kindergartens.
As it stands, masking-up is mandatory on public transport and medical settings.
But the move is set to frustrate Oktoberfest goers after the beer-drinking event, which attracts six million attendees, was cancelled by German authorities last year.
Beer lovers are expected to be up in arms if this year’s festival is plagued by compulsory mask wearing rules.
The “O-bis-O” rule refers to motoring regulations which requires drivers to put winter tyres on their cars during the colder months.
The move is also set to frustrated the more than 80 million Germans enjoying their summer with very few Covid restrictions.
Berlin is likely to wait on the findings of a scientific commission before putting the rules into the next version of the Infection Protection Act, which is set to expire in September.
The commission has until the end of this month to tell the government which restrictions have been most effective in tackling Covid infections.
Germany Health Minister Karl Lauterbach presented a seven-point plan for the autumn on Friday but did not comment on reports of a return to compulsory mask wearing.
Instead, he urged Germans to wear face masks indoors to protect themselves and acknowledged that current data sets don’t justify making covering-up a legal requirement.
Lauterbach, an epidemiologist by training, said Germany was in the middle of a “summer wave” of infections.
“I ask those who want to protect themselves or others to wear masks indoors,” Lauterbach, a member of the Social Democrats, told reporters in Berlin as he warned cases could rise over the coming months.
“Voluntarily wearing masks needs to be a normality indoors.”
The dominant variant circulating in Germany is comparatively mild, and many residents are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, meaning they are less at risk of serious illness, the health minister said.
It comes as Covid cases in England surged by 43 percent last week – the biggest jump in six months.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate 1.4million Brits had the bug last week – around one in 50 people.
The increase is being driven by new variants BA.4 and BA.5, which are offshoots of the dominant Omicron strain known as BA.2.
They are thought to be more infectious than the original version and now account for around half of UK cases.
Cases are also rising in Wales and Northern Ireland where one in 45 had the virus last week and in Scotland where one in 30 were sick.
The weekly stats are a barometer for measuring outbreaks since free testing was axed and the daily dashboard was scaled down.
Scientists believe the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration helped fuel the uptick in cases.
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