It has been in place since this week: the compromise that should get Germany through the Corona winter. In the traffic light, they express their satisfaction with the key points for the new Infection Protection Act, which Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and the Federal Minister of Justice have agreed on.
There is talk of “good preparation”. Outside the coalition, the new corona measures are not viewed quite so positively. Since Lauterbach and Buschmann presented the key points on Wednesday, weaknesses have been pointed out. The most important points of criticism at a glance.
The federal government will specify basic protective measures that will apply from October 1st. But these are only rudimentary: masks are compulsory on flights and long-distance transport, as well as masks and tests in hospitals and care facilities.
All other measures are imposed by the federal states, such as an FFP2 mask requirement in retail or compulsory testing in schools.
The President of the German Teachers’ Association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, criticizes the fact that the federal states have hardly been given reliable criteria for when the individual measures should be implemented. So it could happen that with comparable numbers of infections, each federal state does its own thing. Meidinger warns of the “biggest patchwork of corona measures of all time”.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, on the other hand, hopes that the federal states will simply exhaust all the measures that are available and that in the end there will be uniformity.
Experts such as virologist Martin Stürmer see the fact that the guidelines for the countries are formulated as “soft as wax” as a major problem. This is particularly evident in the fact that the federal states are allowed to take particularly strict measures such as upper limits for people at events if the health system is threatened to be overloaded. However, it is unclear how this is to be determined.
Reference is made to indicators such as incidence, but no threshold values are mentioned. Andreas Gassen, the chairman of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, calls for nationwide defined criteria. “Binding criteria can include the occurrence of an aggressive virus variant and the degree of utilization of the intensive care units,” he said.
The same problem exists with the regulations for schools. For students from the 5th grade, the federal states can make it compulsory to wear a medical mask.
However, only “if this is necessary to maintain regulated classroom teaching.” Virologists are calling for clearer guidelines here so that the countries know when they can make masks compulsory in schools.
The President of the Meidinger Teachers’ Association also criticizes that it is incomprehensible that a mask requirement for elementary school students cannot be imposed even if the indications “shoot through the roof” and the sick leave among teachers is so high that classes are cancelled.
“Obviously, the maxim applies in secondary schools that it is better to wear a mask than to cancel classes, and in primary schools the principle is to prefer to cancel classes than to wear a mask. Nobody understands that anymore,” said Meidinger.
The board of directors of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, called for better protection for people in nursing homes and accused the federal government of making the old mistakes.
“Caring for the elderly remains the Achilles’ heel of fighting the pandemic,” he said. His point of criticism: Freshly vaccinated and recovered employees and visitors to old people’s and nursing homes should be exempted from the test requirement.
“When will the measures finally reflect the reality that those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered can also infect others?” asked Brysch. Here, however, experts counter: If several vaccines adapted to the omicron variant are available from autumn, they would again provide significantly better protection against infection – and thus also against the transmission of the virus.
Experts are particularly skeptical about the regulation, according to which only those who were last vaccinated less than three months ago are considered to be “freshly” vaccinated. These people can then enjoy advantages: If masks are compulsory in leisure and cultural facilities such as fitness studios, theaters or restaurants, then they are exempt from it.
Apart from the fact that critics point out that this is difficult to control, the period of three months for this privilege is relatively short. The science journalist Jakob Simmank speaks of a “fatal medical false incentive”. “People will be vaccinated here for whom it is not indicated.” So the fear is that people could be vaccinated more often than is advisable.
Christian Karagiannidis, scientific director of the Divi intensive care register, nevertheless believes that the traffic light has achieved a good compromise. The possibility of compulsory masks is elementary for the winter. Of course you will have to do some rework here and there. “I think we have a good chance of getting through the winter properly,” he told the Tagesspiegel.