Federal Minister of Health calls for the voluntary use of face masks

BERLIN (AP) – Germany’s health minister urged residents and visitors to wear face masks indoors to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus, but acknowledged that current data does not justify mask use.

A mask requirement for indoor areas largely expired nationwide this spring, but the requirement for places such as hospitals and nursing homes remains in place. The libertarian FDP, which is part of the country’s governing coalition, has been particularly vocal in pushing for an end to COVID-19 measures.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, a trained epidemiologist, said Germany is seeing an expected increase in cases that would amount to a “summer wave”. The country has recently reported between 50 and 130 coronavirus-related deaths a day, according to official figures.

“I ask those who want to protect themselves or others to wear masks indoors,” Lauterbach, a member of the Social Democrats, told reporters in Berlin, noting that cases could continue to rise in the coming months. “The voluntary wearing of masks must become the norm indoors.”

The dominant variant common in Germany is comparatively mild, and many residents have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19, meaning they are at lower risk of serious illness, the health minister said.

“There is no need to panic,” he said.

Lauterbach said the government is working to secure a broad supply of vaccines that would respond to all major variants for the fall.

Citizens who are at risk or don’t want to endanger others should consider a second booster shot, he added.

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