COVID masks will return in Germany, says justice minister

Germans will soon be required to wear protective masks in indoor public spaces to help fight the next spread of COVID-19, but there won’t be a return to lockdowns, school closures or curfews, said Justice Minister Marco Buschmann.

In an interview with national newspaper Morgen Post, Buschmann — a member of the anti-lockdown, liberal Free Democrats in Germany’s governing coalition — said that while the summer COVID-19 wave was flattening, the government was preparing a response for an onslaught in the fall and winter, which it would present to parliament for legislative approval in September. One of the main mitigation measures would be making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces.

“The effectiveness of masks for individuals indoors is undisputed,” said Buschmann. “That is why some form of wearing masks indoors will certainly play a role in our concept. We are already working with mask requirements in local public transport.”

Buschmann said the coalition agreed lockdowns and school closures were no longer appropriate measures in the third year of the pandemic, and that the country would imitate “Chinese conditions” if it “carelessly locked people up at home” or brought public life to a standstill.

“The high mental and socio-psychological effects, not to mention the consequences for the education of young people, I consider to be unacceptable,” said Buschmann. “A millstone was put around the neck of a whole generation of pupils and students.”

Buschmann, who caught COVID-19 for the first time this week, said he also wanted authorities to up the ante on collecting more and better data on how the pandemic was evolving. This would include conducting wastewater tests to predict waves of infection.

“It is intolerable that we have to speculate,” he said. “The data blind must come to an end.”