German Health Minister Says Tighter Contact Curbs Unavoidable
(Bloomberg) -- Germany is poised to sharpen contact curbs to tackle an expected surge in Covid-19 infections in coming weeks as protests against pandemic measures spread.
“A tightening will unfortunately be needed to face the powerful wave that is bearing down on us,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach was quoted as saying late on Tuesday by the RND media group. He has repeatedly warned of the threat posed by the fast-spreading omicron strain of the virus.
Lauterbach said he’ll propose additional measures that will be discussed at Friday’s talks with regional leaders led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, without providing details. He said his goal is to prevent as many as possible of the millions of Germans yet to get vaccinated from ending up in intensive care.
“My appeal to the unvaccinated is to get at least one shot as soon as possible, so that they at least have effective protection against very serious symptoms,” the Harvard-trained professor of epidemiology told RND.
Germany has so far been spared the rapid increase in Covid infections seen in countries like France, the U.K. and Ireland, though the seven-day incidence rate has started to rise again after falling through most of December.
European officials are trying to tackle the latest outbreak by tightening curbs already in place while avoiding the kind of sweeping lockdowns imposed earlier in the pandemic.
Germany is already in what some officials have termed a “lockdown of the unvaccinated,” with limits on the size of public gatherings and on access to non-essential stores, restaurants and theaters.
The country is also looking to follow other countries in easing quarantine rules to protect critical infrastructure from staff shortages, Lauterbach said.
“Studies show that the generation time -- including the phase in which the virus spreads in the body and the phase in which a person is contagious -- is much shorter with omicron,” he told RND. “So we can reduce the length of the quarantine period to a certain extent without taking any risks.”
Meanwhile, street protests against the government’s pandemic strategy are intensifying across Germany, with some demonstrations turning violent.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the government respects the right of peaceful demonstration but warned that authorities would crack down on protesters who use violence.
“Only a very small minority are radical and resort to threats and violence,” Faeser said Tuesday in an interview with ARD television. “When people become radical and abusive, then I think a limit has been reached,” she added. “Then the rule of law must be imposed with full force.”
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