The head of the Bavarian government Markus Söder maintains the prospect of a further easing of restrictions in February: if the situation in hospitals is stable and there is no heavy burden on intensive care units, citizens should again be given more freedom, the CSU leader announced. The background to his optimistic plans is that the Omicron variant seems to be more lenient than the Delta variant. “Omicron is different from Delta,” Söder stressed in an interview with ARD. He expects the Omicron wave to peak in two weeks. After that, Söder would like to see a loosening of measures for gastronomy, culture, and also the sports sector.
German government against “premature” relaxation of restrictions
Germany’s federal government, on the other hand, spoke out unequivocally Monday against a “premature” loosening of restrictions. “The moment we think we can lift the restrictions in a responsible way, this federal government and also all state governments will take exactly that step,” – government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in Berlin on Monday. However, at the moment it is “still a bit too early” to take this step. We are still in a phase where the numbers are going up, new records are being set every day. The peak of the wave has not yet been reached. “And as a result, I would caution at this point against believing too early that it’s over,” – Hebestreit said.
Staged plan to lift restrictions
Söder’s preliminary, phased plan is not expected to be implemented until mid-February at the earliest. Under the plan, more spectators would be allowed to attend sports and cultural events. More people would be allowed into catering establishments and fairs. The relaxation, however, is not expected to take effect until the next nationwide coronavirus summit in mid-February. “I think we have to go step by step,” said Söder referring to his plans.
According to the CSU head, face-to-face teaching in Bavarian schools should be continued at all costs. “Suspending classroom teaching leads to chaos,” – he explained. The existing testing strategy and mandatory masks make on-site teaching still possible.
In addition, the value of the incidence rate can no longer be used as the sole criterion for relaxing and tightening regulations. Shortly before, Markus Söder again called for the introduction of a nationwide hospital occupancy rate as a warning system against coronavirus.
The incidence in Bavaria is currently 1350.5, higher than in Germany as a whole, where the current average is 1156.8, according to the Robert Koch Institute (as of Sunday, January 30, 2022).