Correspondent in Berlin
The German Robert Koch Institute already reports an incidence of 840 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days, with black spots such as Berlin, where that figure is close to 1,500, and expects that the peak of the Omicron wave will not occur until mid February, when several hundred thousand infections per day will be reached. This very high level of infections has the consequence that there are not enough PCR tests to confirm all the rapid tests that test positive and the Ministry of Health has decided to prioritize its use and reserve it for people who belong to risk groups. Chancellor Olaf Schoz and the presidents of the Bundesländer have agreed that from now on not all citizens will have access to the PRC tests, but that they will be provideds only to health personnel, preoperative and care centersas well as patients with risk factors.
“All the others, if they test positive in an antigen test, will not confirm the result with a PCR, as has been done until now, but will have a second monitored antigen test that is also free. And the same goes for people without symptoms but who are aware of having been in contact with an infected person, personally or through the Corona Warning application, “explained Minister Karl Lauterbach.
Despite the triggered infections, the Intensive Care Units (ICU) barely have an occupation of 10%, so the health authorities will not take more measures for now than those that are in force, which include the need to be vaccinated and present a negative test of the day to access restaurants and leisure and the prohibition of meeting more than ten vaccinated people and more than two unvaccinated. “This is not the time to loosen up or harden,” said Chancellor Scholz, “now we have to stay the course.” The wave of infections and subsequent quarantines of all first-degree contact persons is causing damage to certain services, which lack sufficient personnel for its operation.
To help alleviate this situation as much as possible, the Ministry of the Family has transferred 8,000 of its officials to make up for casualties in nurseries and schools. These are personnel with pedagogical training, who usually work in offices or who are assigned to programs such as ‘Sprach Kitas’, which usually promotes the correct learning of the German language in schools with a greater presence of students of migrant origin or prevention programs of hate and violence in the classroom. All of them will now park these tasks to reinforce the teaching staff and allow schools remain open “because we have already seen the terrible psychological consequences for children when nurseries and schools are closed,” Minister Anne Spiegel justified.
The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has led the German authorities, on the other hand, to reduce the time in which a person is considered cured and with the same status as those vaccinated, from six to three months. The quarantine period after a contagion has also been reduced to ten days and even to 7 if a negative antigen test allows it after a week after the contagion was detected.
Chancellor Scholz once again regretted that the vaccination rate still does not exceed 75% of the population, which he identifies as the first problem in the fight against the pandemic. The document resulting from the meeting again recommends mandatory vaccine legislation, but the government will not present this project, due to the constitutional doubts it raises, and the matter is now in the hands of the parliamentary groups, who could do it on their own. The Liberal MP (FDP) Andrew Ullmann has advanced that, together with Social Democrats and Greens, he is working on a concept of compulsory vaccination for people over 50 years old, a staggered system in which all unvaccinated people would be required to seek medical advice, a procedure similar to the one German law requires women who wish to have an abortion. The same project contemplates that, if enough people are vaccinated for the summer or the date on which the mandatory vaccine should come into force, the law should not be applied, although it does not establish exactly what would be considered sufficient. Virologist Melanie Brinkmann, a member of the Federal Government’s Council of Experts, has stated that “I am not in favor of generalized compulsory vaccination, but an adapted compulsory vaccination for people over 50 years of age would allow us to enter next winter more calmly”.
Tonight, tens of thousands of Germans are once again demonstrating in the streets against this mandatory vaccine project, as has been happening every Monday for weeks. “It goes against all the ethical principles of medicine, which state that any treatment or prevention must be consciously and voluntarily accepted,” Alisa, a 28-year-old doctor and employee at a Brandenburg clinic, protests at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz Square.