Ahead of a speech to the German parliament on Wednesday, Health Minister Jens Spahn said it would not be possible to relax all restrictions aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic on February 1.
“We will still need restrictions,” Spahn told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk public radio station when asked about a possible extension of the lockdown currently in place until the end of January. “It was clear from the beginning on that this would be a hard and difficult winter.
“We will still have to look after each other in the coming weeks,” said Spahn.
The minister added that in addition to government regulations, the members of the public also had to check their own behavior: “A lot of contact still takes place in the private domain, as we have mentioned, this must lead to infections. Then the closure of schools, businesses, and public life make little sense.”
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s health agency for infectious diseases, reported 19,600 new COVID infections on Wednesday. The death toll rose by 1,060 to 42,637.
Challenge of new variants
A particular test, Spahn said, was the emergence of new, more infectious variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease, one from the United Kingdom and another from South Africa.
“The challenge, according to everything we know, is that the infection rate of this virus is considerably higher. That means that even when one lives normally and has normal contact, they infect significantly more people. That’s the experience we have of this virus from Great Britain and this mutation from South Africa.
“That means that we must do everything we can to make sure that this virus is brought into Germany and continental Europe as little as possible,” said Spahn adding that new travel restrictions were being considered and that testing of virus genomes needed to be stepped up to see which strains were now prevalent in Germany.
In the interview, Spahn also ruled out the idea of making vaccination mandatory for care staff, for instance in homes for the elderly or hospitals. That idea had been floated by Bavarian state Premier Markus Söder, who said it should be considered by the German Ethics Council.
Instead, Spahn said it would be preferable to address the concerns of health and social care employees and persuade them to take the vaccine without the element of compulsion.
German coronavirus measures could last months, health minister says Wire Services/ Deutsche Welle.