With a new wave of Covid on the horizon, a number of countries are preparing to bring back dreaded pandemic mandates once more, including hugely popular tourist destinations like Germany and Ireland. In these European nations, mandatory mask usage may again be enforced starting this fall, should infection trends continue rising.
Even though a majority of countries are now open with no travel restrictions, Germany and Ireland included, we admit we may have jumped the gun in affirming the world is ready to treat Covid as endemic. If Germany’s recent back and forth with restrictions are any indication, travelers will face a high degree of unpredictability moving forward.
Even when their final destination has already dropped all pandemic rules, preservation of personal freedoms is no longer guaranteed:
Germany Planning To Make Masks Compulsory Again In Indoor Settings From October
Having backtracked twice on their reopening plans ahead of finally dropping all entry rules in early June, Germany is again discussing proposals to tighten mandates. This time, it’s masks that may be making a comeback after the summer travel season ends, according to local news outlet Die Welt.
It seems the German Government is seriously considering issuing a mask mandate in all public spaces starting this fall, when Covid infections have a potential to rise due to increased social mixing in poorly-ventilated enclosed areas. Confirming the proposal is being actively debated, Die Welt even dubbed it the ‘O-bis-O’ scheme.
‘O-bis-O’ stands for ‘Oktober bis Ostern’, translated into English as ‘From October to March’. While no official measures have yet been announced, this would mean visitors would be required to wear face masks in a majority of settings, including bars, restaurants and shops, throughout the whole winter season.
Unarguably the EU’s leading nation, Germany’s change in approach could have reverberations across the entire continent, which has been enjoying far greater freedoms lately. Its current lax health measures, enshrined into the Infection Protection Act, are set to expire in September, adding further weight to these findings.
So far, the German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has not commented on an eventual return of mandatory masks in October, though his latest recommendations seem to point to a strengthening of the rules. Despite conceding the current data ‘does not justify making mas use a legal requirement’ right now, Lauterbach stood firmly in his recommendations that the public must adhere to masks.
He has urged visitors to keep their face coverings, as Germany already reaches 35% of its previous peak of infections. Unfortunately, the numbers are set to rise even further, as reported by Reuters. Up until this point, Germany has not communicated any changes to its mask policies or border measures affecting travelers, but that may change with no warning.
Ireland Could Be Following Suit
Proving Germany’s initiative is already having a ripple effect on Europe, Ireland is mulling a new mask mandate to be reinstated in the event of a ‘possible emergency in winter’. As the Irish Times announced, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will be drafting a new law imposing mandatory mask-wearing across the country.
Earlier this year, as Ireland moved away from pandemic conservatism and fully reopened, all legislation concerning mask usage had been allowed to expire. The decision could be overturned soon, as Government sources confirm the intention is to ‘draft legislation that could be passed quickly’ if the need arises.
Infections in Ireland are nowhere nearly as pronounced as Germany’s, but we all have seen, time and again, how volatile pandemic trends can be, and how fast the virus can disseminate once a new variant stars seeding. As new sub-lineages of Covid are identified, Ireland is reporting the highest daily case count since January.
Ireland’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has directly linked the viral rebound to the spread of two of Omicron’s most infectious offspring, the BA. 4 and BA. 5 sub-variants. In recent data, the HPSC has confirmed 77 per cent of cases detected in the seven days leading up to June 18 were caused by either BA. 4 or BA. 5.
As things stand, visiting Ireland today looks a lot like being a tourist in 2019. Whether it’s pub crawling or chasing the country’s world-renowned natural landmarks along its rugged Western Coast, visitors are not expected to present vaccine passes or wear masks. Based on the information gathered here, this could change once summer is over.
Is France Next In Line?
Elsewhere in Europe, countries that stood among the first to drop the mask rule are now reconsidering their liberal stance. That is the case with France, whose Prime Minister is strongly recommending mask usage despite the country lifting the mandate just over a month ago. Essentially, what started as a promising Covid-free summer is slowly turning into a new nightmare.
Coupled with the latest spate of flight cancellations, the ups and downs of Covid continue posing big challenges to travelers this year. Due to the uncertainty relating to the ever-changing mandates, we strongly encourage you to get insured ahead of flying – that way, you will be covered for cancelled trips regardless of Germany’s, or Ireland’s, or France’s unpredictable moves.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories