Pandemic: “Up again” – This is what the new federal and state measures against Omikron could look like

Berlin Before the federal and state governments discuss the corona situation, further measures are emerging in view of the rapidly expanding Omikron variant. “We will probably have to increase again,” said Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach on Wednesday evening on ZDF.

The Green health expert Janosch Dahmen called on the federal and state governments to take “drastic measures” in relation to the Handelsblatt. If necessary, “systematic closings of companies in all sectors” are necessary. The municipalities also expect stricter contact restrictions.

It was to be assumed that infections were significantly under-recorded over the holidays, but the reported values ​​have now shown a lively infection rate again.

The health authorities reported 64,340 new corona infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within one day – an increase of more than 20,000 cases compared to the previous week. The value of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week was 285.9 on Thursday morning. Experience from other countries shows that this number is likely to increase rapidly in the coming weeks.

Nevertheless, there is largely agreement among experts that Germany has so far got off lightly. Thanks to the existing measures, the country got through the Omikron wave better than other countries such as Great Britain, said virologist Christian Drosten recently on the NDR podcast. There are hardly any restrictions there compared to Germany, which means that the virus has favorable conditions.

There is also hope that Omikron could bring an endemic situation closer. The high level of transferability could lead to the population as a whole reaching a higher level of immunity comparatively quickly. Ideally, the milder courses could take the pressure off the health system, but this hope could also be deceptive.

The federal states are therefore looking at the increasing number of cases and the further course of the pandemic with a mixture of calm and uncertainty. “The decisions of December helped to mitigate the force of the wave of infections,” said the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) the Handelsblatt. Nevertheless, the Omikron variant is spreading exponentially, and the number of cases would rise sharply again.

The Green health expert Dahmen therefore even expects that Germany could be hit harder by the Omikron wave than other countries. “In countries like Great Britain, France and Italy, the vaccination and recovery rate is significantly higher than in this country,” said Dahmen to the Handelsblatt. “In addition, there is a comparatively large vaccination gap among older people in Germany with the risk of a severe course.” The population in this country is also older overall. “The federal and state governments must react to this with drastic measures.”

The federal government expects at least that the new variant will soon be the predominant one. This is already the case in many federal states. The open question, however, is whether and which further measures are necessary so that Germany can survive this wave comparatively well in the coming weeks.

The aim is not only to avoid overloading the hospitals, but also large-scale staff losses due to high numbers of infections, especially in the critical infrastructure. At the same time, within the framework of the existing Infection Protection Act, restrictions such as school and business closures are hardly possible – and so far politically and socially not wanted.

Quarantine rules

The Conference of Health Ministers and Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) presented proposals on Wednesday to significantly reduce quarantine and isolation times. The background to this is the fear of massive staff shortages, especially in the critical infrastructure.

It is not unfounded. In Great Britain, every sixth clinic had to declare a disaster due to the rapidly increasing number of illnesses. This happens when operations can no longer be guaranteed.

Lauterbach’s plan provides that after seven days you can leave a quarantine as a contact person for infected people or isolation because of your own infection. However, a condition is a subsequent negative PCR test or a “high quality” rapid test. After ten days, the secretion should end without a test.

Personnel in the critical infrastructure should be able to test themselves out of quarantine after just five days with the mandatory PCR test, and sick people after seven days also only with a PCR test from an isolation.

In general, the proposal also provides that, among other things, “boosted patients” should be exempt from quarantine as a contact person from seven days after the third vaccination.

The resolution of the Conference of Health Ministers, however, stipulates that vaccinated employees in the critical infrastructure can end isolation due to an infection “for the purpose of taking up work” after five days with a negative PCR test.

This should also apply in this area to the quarantine for close contacts without symptoms. In general, symptom-free close contacts should go into quarantine for seven days – unvaccinated people could only end them with a PCR test. “Boosted” people no longer need to be in quarantine; regular self-tests should be recommended to them.

New contact restrictions

Health Minister Lauterbach has been pushing for stricter contact restrictions for days. Here you will have to improve again, he said last on ZDF, without giving details. The current Infection Protection Act allows hardly any further contact restrictions than those that have been decided so far.

Several countries are pushing for the legal basis to be expanded again by establishing the epidemic situation. Similar demands came to an end at the last Prime Minister’s Conference. And it is likely that no decision will be made on Friday either.

It is conceivable that the federal and state governments will agree to apply the 2G-plus rule nationwide. So far it has only been valid in some federal states, most recently it was decided by Hamburg. It says that vaccinated and convalescent people also have to submit a test in large parts of public life. Exceptions apply to people with a booster vaccination.

The Green politician Dahmen, on the other hand, considers this rule to be only a “minimum protection.” Clearly more extensive contact restrictions are necessary. “Either extensive systematic closings of businesses in all industries or indoor sports facilities such as fitness studios may be necessary. Depending on the location, this could affect trade fairs, organizers, service providers and retailers, ”said Dahmen.

These lockdown measures could be avoided “if at all only if the definition of complete vaccination protection was immediately adapted and in future only people with a booster vaccination or those newly vaccinated twice would be considered fully vaccinated,” said Dahmen. In addition, FFP2 masks are required wherever people come together indoors.

Vaccinations and compulsory vaccination

Vaccination continues to be seen as the most important tool against the pandemic. However, Germany is making little progress with initial vaccinations. Currently, just over 71 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. The federal government’s goal of achieving a vaccination quota of 80 percent in January has so far been out of reach.

The German Association of Towns and Municipalities therefore called on the federal and state governments to make preparations, especially for a further booster vaccination, if an adapted vaccine is available. It must also be decided whether a prioritization of the next vaccinations for particularly vulnerable people, the elderly and staff in the critical infrastructure should take place, said chief executive Gerd Landsberg the editorial network Germany.

The Omikron variant also fuels the debate about a general vaccination requirement. In its statement published in December, the majority of the Ethics Council supported an expansion of the recently decided corona vaccination requirement for staff in sensitive facilities to “significant parts of the population”.

However, there were differing views on the scope and the precise structure of an extended mandatory vaccination. Perhaps the question of compulsory vaccination due to the Omikron variants will be “obsolete because the challenge for the health system is changing,” said FDP Vice-President Johannes Vogel of “Welt”. “But perhaps our vaccination picking, for example, remains dangerous, especially with the elderly. We are currently learning new things here every day. These topics will be discussed in the Bundestag debate. “

Corona vaccinations

The Federal Minister of Health considers the compulsory vaccination to be correct.

(Photo: dpa)

Health Minister Lauterbach, on the other hand, said: “I consider compulsory vaccination to be important in order to prevent us from facing this problem that we have now again in autumn.” It is very unlikely that Omikron will be the last important virus variant. And there could also be variants that are as contagious as Omikron but more dangerous.

Dahmen therefore called for a quick decision. “I think it would be wrong to postpone the deliberations in the Bundestag on a general vaccination requirement,” said the health expert. “The general compulsory vaccination should continue to be discussed and decided quickly, as implementation clearly takes time anyway.” The sooner this measure achieves a maximum vaccination quota in the population, the better – especially with a view to the Omikron wave. “This does not make the compulsory vaccination obsolete, but even more urgent.”

The alternative would be to contaminate the unvaccinated population with possible consequences not only for those affected but also for others, for example through renewed overloading of the health system. A vaccination register is necessary for mandatory vaccination. “There is also no central recording of who goes through the traffic light when it is red. Anyone caught doing this still has to expect a fine. “

Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU), on the other hand, would prefer not to make any decisions at tomorrow’s round. “I would prefer we advise tomorrow and then decide a few days later when the scientific basis is definitely better,” he says, “Bild auf TV”. He has not yet made a final recommendation for a far-reaching decision that will affect millions of people and many livelihoods. In view of the troubled corona social situation, one should also consider “how we can heal and reconcile society”.

With agency material.

More: How the federal and state governments want to re-regulate the quarantine

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