Germany's health minister eyes lockdown easing
German Health Minister Jens Spahn signaled on Thursday that coronavirus lockdown restrictionscould be lifted before the spring.
"We can't stay in this hard lockdown all winter. We would not tolerate that well as a society," Spahn said in an interview with the Funke media group.
He pointed to the drop in the number of new infections and patients in intensive care since the start of the year, calling the figures "encouraging.”
After loosening restrictions during the summer months, Germany went into a partial lockdown in November, closing bars, restaurants and cultural and sporting facilities. Schools and non-essential shops were added to the list in mid-December.
In January, the government brought in tighter ruleson mask-wearing and working from home tightened amid concerns over new virus variants.
Spahn has faced criticism in recent weeksover the German government’s troubled rollout of its vaccination scheme.
He has said that Europe could consider producing Russia’s Sputnik V jab and that talks with Moscow have already begun, calling them "constructive and critical."
Federal and state leaders will meet on February 10 to review Germany’s current lockdown, which is set to expire three days later.
But a group of frontline medical professionals called on the government to keep the measures in place until the end of February.
"It is absolutely necessary that we extend the measures in force by at least two weeks," said Gernot Marx, the president of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine.
Marx was quoted by the DPA news agency as saying that there would only be a "real easing" of lockdown measures when there were fewer than 1000 coronavirus patients in intensive care across Germany.
Currently, there are about 4200 ICU patients in the country.
He added that potentially more infectious virus variants could spark a third wave and lay "another extreme burden" on the country’s hospitals.
jf/dj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)