Berlin, Dusseldorf The mask requirement in long-distance traffic ends on February 2nd. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) announced this in a press conference on Friday.
This means that masks will no longer be compulsory on all public transport from February. In some countries it has already been abolished, others had already announced an end for February 2nd. The remaining states of Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland have now followed suit and announced that the obligation will be lifted.
The decision was agreed with the federal cabinet and the federal states, said Lauterbach. In the future, there should be more personal responsibility, said Lauterbach. In addition, a winter wave of infections is no longer to be expected and the current corona situation is easily manageable.
The mask requirement will not fall until February to give the federal states and the railways enough time to prepare. The abolition takes place by ordinance, i.e. without a new vote in the Bundestag. Anyone who is particularly at risk should continue to protect themselves by wearing a mask – “but on a voluntary basis”.
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The obligation to isolate remains in place, Lauterbach said. “The workplace and the public space must remain safe”. It cannot be that people who are knowingly infected endanger others there.
The debate about the mask requirement had picked up speed in the past few days. Most recently, Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann called for the mask requirement to be completely lifted at the end of the month and for the other corona measures to be examined prematurely. He welcomed the now announced step in a tweet.
“In my view, other protective measures can also be lifted before April 7th. The development is currently so positive that even cautious scientists see us in the endemic stage,” he told the Augsburger Allgemeine.
>> Read also: The mask requirement is about to end
The Berlin virologist Christian Drosten also said that the mask would “not be as efficient” in view of the spreading Corona subvariant XBB.1.5. More infectious virus is excreted with this virus than with previous viruses. “But the mask can only stop the same amount of virus,” said Drosten in the NDR podcast “Coronavirus Update”.
Drosten: “The mask will no longer be as efficient”
The mask will therefore contribute less to transmission control than before. However, Drosten still considers the mask to be useful on trains – especially to protect vulnerable groups. He also spoke out against lifting all protective measures. These make sense if push comes to shove again, he said.
The number of detected cases of XBB.1.5 in Germany was still relatively low at the end of 2022. “The XBB.1.5 variant, which is widespread in the USA, had a share of one percent,” writes the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in its Covid 19 weekly report on Thursday evening.
Lauterbach announces the end of the mask requirement in long-distance transport
Like other sub-lines, the sub-line is under observation. Preliminary data indicated a growth advantage over other and previously circulating sublines. The information relates to data from the last week of the past year and is based on small absolute numbers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the new sublineage has no mutation known to alter disease severity. However, due to genetic traits and growth rate estimates, potential for case numbers to increase is seen worldwide. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty – also because the information on the growth advantage has so far only been based on US data.
With agency material.
More: New Omicron Subline – What XBB.1.5 Means for Germany