Corona loosening: Appropriate – at least for the moment

Status: 04/23/2022 11:25 a.m

Most of the Corona rules were lifted about three weeks ago. In many places, masks are no longer compulsory. Experts now consider the easing to be appropriate – at least for the moment.

Three weeks after the abolition of most corona regulations in large parts of Germany, experts are relatively relaxed about the coming weeks. In view of the falling number of corona cases in intensive care units, Helmut Küchenhoff, head of the statistical consulting laboratory at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University, speaks of a good development.

This decline in the number of intensive care but also hospital admissions is consistent across all federal states. “That’s why I would assume that this is definitely an effect that is sustainable.” The chairman of the German Society for Infectious Diseases, Bernd Salzberger, also speaks of a calming situation throughout Germany.

The seven-day incidence had also fallen sharply in the past few weeks, but recently rose again slightly. Easter is likely to have played an important role here, because fewer tests are carried out on public holidays and fewer cases of infection are reported, and there are corresponding late reports in the days that follow.

Numbers probably higher than in official statistics

On Saturday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) gave the value of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week as 821.7. However, experts have been assuming that there are many unrecorded cases with this indicator for some time – due to overburdened health authorities and because fewer and fewer PCR tests have recently been carried out, on which the official statistics are based. In fact, there are currently about twice as many cases as are officially reported, said Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. The RKI continues to assess the infection pressure in the population as high.

The federal and state governments had significantly relaxed their corona measures at the beginning of April and let numerous regulations expire – the most controversial was the end of the mask requirement in retail. In view of the continued high incidences, the omission had been widely criticized. Only Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had used the so-called hotspot regulation for stricter measures. Health Minister Lauterbach had also asked the other federal states to do the same.

Great importance of personal responsibility

According to statistician Küchenhoff, there is much to suggest that lifting the measures was justified. The omission of the rules did not have a negative impact on what was happening. Infectiologist Salzberger, on the other hand, would have liked the mask requirement to last a little longer. “We still had high incidences for three weeks and the concern of many virologists and infectiologists was that vulnerable people would still be infected.” A high viral load was still widespread. In the meantime, however, he also thinks it is appropriate that masks are no longer compulsory in supermarkets, for example.

For Salzberger, the fact that the numbers are tending to decrease has a lot to do with people’s personal responsibility. Immunity and vaccination also play a role, and the good weather also helps a little. In the two previous years, the corona numbers also fell at the end of April and beginning of May. Health Minister Lauterbach recently also assumed that the pandemic would decrease seasonally. There will be a low number of cases, but not a situation like last year, when the summer was “almost corona-free”. The current omicron virus variant is too contagious for this, even in good weather.

What would the situation be like with the measures still in force?

It is difficult to estimate whether the numbers would have fallen faster if the stricter corona rules had been in force for a longer period of time, says statistician Küchenhoff. “It is very difficult to assess what the individual measures do – even in retrospect.”

One of the reasons for this is that several measures were usually applied at the same time and it is not possible to determine afterwards which measure achieved how much or how little. From the theory of contagious diseases, we at least know that the reduction in contact works and wearing the mask also shows a visible effect in studies. “The decisive factor is the behavior of the people and not necessarily the regulations,” emphasizes Küchenhoff.

What comes after the carefree weeks?

If you ask the experts for longer-term forecasts for autumn and winter, they remain vague. “No one can seriously predict what will happen in autumn at the moment. New variants can develop. Something completely new can happen. We just don’t know that,” says statistician Küchenhoff.

Virologist Salzberger adds that people should not expect the pandemic to be over. Germany should prepare as well as possible for various scenarios.

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