Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt: public transport mask requirement will be abolished

The mask is still mandatory on buses and trains, but the first federal states are now abolishing it. Other countries do not want to follow suit.

Prime Minister Söder takes off a corona mask

From December 10th, Söder-Markus will tear his mask off his face when he takes the subway Photo: Frank Hoermann/Simon/imago

MUNICH dpa | The first federal states create the obligation to wear the masks in local public transport (ÖPNV). The cabinets of Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt justified their decisions on Tuesday with a stable infection situation. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) criticized the advance. FDP leader Christian Lindner, on the other hand, welcomed it.

After the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK) on Monday no common line on Mask requirement in local public transport was able to agree, Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt are now leading the way. Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) said the reason for this was that the corona virus no longer made up the majority of viral diseases – influenza and RS virus had a much higher proportion of the sick in hospitals. In this respect, a mask requirement to protect against the corona virus is no longer proportionate. The state government continues to make a recommendation to wear masks. Regarding the corona situation, Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) wrote on Twitter: “The infection situation has been stable for a long time.”

Saxony-Anhalt will also be making the wearing of masks in local public transport voluntary in the future. The obligation should already fall here on December 8th. The cabinet agreed on this on Tuesday, according to government circles. The country is thus relying on more personal responsibility, it said.

Schleswig-Holstein wants to decide next week on ending the mask requirement on buses and trains. Prime Minister Daniel Günther (CDU) had already announced three weeks ago that the mask requirement, which was limited until the end of the year, would not be extended. North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Saarland and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania initially continue to adhere to the mask requirement, as the state governments made clear on Tuesday.

Lindner speaks of a “good decision”

Federal Health Minister Lauterbach is critical of the end of the mask requirement in public transport. “I’m just not convinced of that,” said the SPD politician on Tuesday in Berlin, referring to the pandemic situation. In the GMK, he and the President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, made it clear again on Monday that there were no reasons to say now that masks and the isolation of corona infected people could be dispensed with. Lauterbach referred to a more contagious virus variant to be expected, as well as other RS ​​viruses and a wave of flu.

FDP leader Lindner positioned himself differently. The Federal Minister of Finance wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that it was a “right decision” that Bavaria was again relying more on personal responsibility for the corona protection measures. “I hope that this decision will soon catch on nationwide,” added Lindner.

The Association of Transport Companies (VDV) welcomes the end of the mask requirement in public transport. “There is no evidence from abroad, where masks have not been compulsory on buses and trains for months, nor from scientific studies known to us that the number of infections increases exceptionally when masks are no longer worn in public transport,” said spokesman Lars Wagner. In addition, it is becoming increasingly difficult to actually enforce the mask requirement. However, Wagner pointed out problems for the staff when different rules apply to local transport connections across federal state borders.

The head of the railway and transport union (EVG), Martin Burkert, spoke out in favor of waiving the mask requirement on long-distance trains. “Nobody can understand why masks are still compulsory on long-distance trains,” said Burkert of the German Press Agency. While the federal states can decide for themselves whether a mask is compulsory in local transport, the federal government is responsible for long-distance transport. According to the current Federal Infection Protection Act, masks are compulsory there until April 2023.

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