BERLIN (HPD) — Germany’s ruling coalition is debating whether to lift restrictions imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19 after one of the country’s most prominent virologists declared the pandemic over.
Germany has already lifted most of the restrictions, but unlike other European countries, it still requires face masks on buses and long-distance trains. In addition, it is mandatory to wear a face mask and have a negative test, in medical offices, hospitals and nursing homes.
The rules on local transport correspond to the 16 regional governments of Germany, and some have already eliminated the obligation to put on face masks. Some have also removed the rule that COVID patients stay isolated at home.
Statements by Christian Drosten, a professor of virology at Berlin’s Charite Hospital, to the Tagesspiegel newspaper have sparked renewed debate over whether the restrictions should be lifted.
“We are experiencing the first endemic wave of SARS-COV 2 this winter; my assessment is that, with this, the pandemic is over,” Drosten was quoted as saying by the newspaper. He added that the only reservation he has about it is the possibility of a new mutation of the virus emerging, “but I don’t expect that to happen.”
Justice Minister Marco Buschmann stressed that Drosten has been one of the most cautious scientists during the pandemic, and “as a political consequence, we should put an end to the latest protective measures.” He stated on Twitter that the law allows the federal restrictions to be repealed before their scheduled end on April 7 if the situation is better than anticipated in the fall “and that is the case now.”
Buschmann’s party, the Free Democrats, the smallest of the three in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition, has long been pushing for as few restrictions as possible.
But the other centre-left parties disagreed. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told the dpa news agency that “an immediate end to all measures” would be irresponsible.
Lauterbach indicated that the most vulnerable population still needs protection. He further stressed that the large number of cases are stretching the resources of the health system.