Germany: Reactions and confusion over new measures against the Omicron variant

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Reactions and confusion have been caused on the one hand by the decisions taken yesterday by the federation and states to manage the upcoming wave of the Omicron variant of the new coronavirus and on the other hand by the -unusual- differentiation of the Robert Koch Institute, which government policy.

Shortly before Chancellor Olaf Soltz’s crucial meeting with the state’s prime ministers, the Institute, which has scientific responsibility for managing the pandemic, posted on Twitter, calling for “immediate closure of contacts as much as possible.” Extending school holidays, returning universities to digital education, suspending catering businesses, banning indoor singing and restricting gatherings for two, with mandatory mask use, even outdoors, when distances are not possible.

The institute also spoke of “unprecedented dynamics of the new wave” and predicted a major burden on the health system if Omicron’s invasion is not stopped. He even warned of the danger that basic structures – such as the energy, the police, the fire brigade – could not function reliably in such a case.

The chancellor and the health minister, who oversees the Robert Koch Institute, have expressed particular concern over the public outcry over the pandemic, which is raging and frustrated. Both Olaf Solz and Karl Lauterbach, however, chose to follow their original plan, ignoring the Institute’s recommendations.
Thus, the new measures envisage from December 28, among other things, the limitation of gatherings to ten people, even if they are vaccinated citizens, the suspension of nightclubs, the cancellation of major events and the holding of sports games without spectators.

The decisions did not satisfy at least two of the prime ministers, Winfried Kretzmann of Baden-Württemberg (Greens) and that of Saxony Michael Kretschmer (CDU), who criticized the decisions as “inadequate”.

The governor-mayor of Hamburg, Peter Chancher, announced that the measures in his area will take effect already on Christmas Eve, while he imposed an additional curfew after 23:00. Only on New Year’s Eve the restaurants will be open until 01:00.

And in Mecklenburg-Pomerania, the government announced that it would put the new rules into effect on December 24. Winfried Kretschmann and Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Zeder also called on the federal government to restore the “national epidemic”, which allowed immediate and unified measures to be taken against the pandemic, which the new ruling coalition .

“We do not need regional measures, but a nationally standardized framework for the effective and sustainable treatment of Omicron. “Everything else is a mess,” said Zenter, expressing surprise at the attitude of the Robert Koch Institute.

“It’s as if the Bavarian state health service was proposing something different from the Bavarian health ministry. “That would be questionable,” Zender told Münchner Merkur, referring to “chaos.”

On the media side, the RND network described the government’s attitude of “not listening to the experts” as “irresponsible” and said that in relation to what the Robert Koch Institute and the newly formed Committee of Experts had proposed, the government was doing “surprisingly little. which come into force surprisingly slowly “. According to the RND, a key obstacle to more drastic decision-making is the ruling Liberal Party (FDP), whose high-ranking officials oppose tougher measures. In addition, as mentioned in the opinion article, elections in 2022 are scheduled in four L (nder (Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony).

Stern magazine writes that “decisions come again too late – at least by two weeks”.

The role of the FDP is also mentioned by Der Spiegel magazine, which, however, points out that behind the Liberals’ refusal for stricter measures, “all those who do not want a lockdown before the holidays are hiding.” And they were almost all. ” Regarding the announcements of the Robert Koch Institute, the German magazine points out that Karl Lauterbach expressed his frustration during the conference, talking about the lack of coordination. Asked if sanctions would be imposed on the head of the institute, Lothar Wheeler, the health minister said “this is up for discussion”.

The decision of the – usually cautious – Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO), which issued a recommendation for the boosting dose of the vaccine three months after the second dose, also came as a surprise yesterday.

Until yesterday, its recommendation provided for a period of six months between 2nd and 3rd installment.

In its communication, the Commission explained that the spread of the Omicron variant must be urgently reduced, which, he stressed, would determine the spread of the virus “in a very short time”.

STIKO also stated that the two vaccines with the so-called messenger RNA (mRNA) used are considered to be absolutely equivalent in effectiveness.

A few days ago, BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin told Spiegel that in view of the spread of Omicron, it would be scientifically reasonable for the third dose to be given three months after the second.

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