Germany once again rises above the fray to reassert itself, this time as the EU leader of COVID measures for the fall. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach of the social-democratic SPD, and his coalition partner, Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann of the liberal FDP, presented the latest update to the German Infection Protection Act that will regulate the rules of public life from October 1st onwards. It looks like mask mandates will make their return back into large parts of Germany’s public life.
The Ministries of Health and Justice assembled what they’ve called a “7-Points-Plan” wherein a nationwide mask mandate and obligatory testing will be prescribed for hospitals, care facilities, public transportation, and airplanes. Further mask mandates, for instance in public schools and other public indoor spaces, may be introduced by the federal states. The new rules also provide optional provisions for introducing mask mandates and attendance caps in public spaces outdoors. While this includes entertainment events like football games, it may also affect the right to assembly that affects participation in demonstrations.
As per course, the layer of the population qualifying as boosted are free to go about their business as usual. The rest will need to remain vigilant to regularly testing and post-COVID immunity longevity. For the recently recovered and vaccinated, there are no obstacles to maintaining one’s business and social connections, so long as this population abides by how “recently” is qualified. Immunization for this coming season has been reduced from 6 to 3 months.
Those who fail to fulfill one of those three demands will be subjected to mask mandates in enclosed venues.
The Health Ministry pointed out that in dark environments, such as cinemas, it may be difficult to control whether such people will keep their masks on. In such venues, the Ministry of Justice suggested, businesses may consider “thinking of something” to “differentiate” people, for instance by using “stickers”—so as not to confuse the cautious, vaccinated moviegoer (who, though vaccinated, might prefer to wear a mask), from his unvaccinated fellow spectator. Health Minister Lauterbach presented the latest version of the German Infection Protection Act which will keep mask mandates and vaccination statuses around until 2023.
By these new rules, the government intends to avoid further lockdowns or school closings. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach backed off from earlier claims, in which he warned of an upcoming “killer variant” of the virus, a combination of the Delta and Omicron strains. So, the comparatively mild set of rules is a result of altered expectations. Now, Lauterbach says, he expects the dominant strain in autumn to be the BA.5 variant, which should cause far less havoc.
Remarkably, though, Lauterbach went even further, explaining in an interview with Die Welt that “the current vaccinations that we have, the Wuhan-vaccination, aren’t very effective in terms of preventing infection with the current variant BA.5. Therefore the protective effect likely won’t last for very long.” Three months are a good timeframe for Lauterbach, as that’s the period in which people would “probably be well protected.” These statements fly in the face of earlier rigid claims made by Lauterbach, in which he praised the effectiveness and protective quality of COVID vaccines, even though these have been increasingly questioned by a flurry of recent studies.
Meanwhile, in neighboring France, the health pass, curfews, and mandatory lockdowns related to the COVID phenomenon have been repealed by the National Assembly and Senate since July 26th.
David Boos is an organist, documentary filmmaker, and writer for The European Conservative and other publications.