The expert commission presented its evaluation report one day late. The balance sheet: mixed. That’s what the experts say about lockdown, masks and school closures.
The expert commission for evaluating the previous corona protection measures in Germany drew a mixed conclusion. The current and future measures should focus on the “transition to endemics” with the protection of “vulnerable groups”, according to the report of the expert committee, which was presented in Berlin on Friday. In the event of a continuous occurrence of Corona, it would therefore be necessary to protect people who are most at risk of illness. In addition, the measures must aim to avoid overloading the healthcare system. The report, which was presented in Berlin on Friday afternoon, is intended to serve as the basis for consultations on the revision of the Infection Protection Act. This expires in its previous version on September 23rd.
The individual measures are evaluated differently in the evaluation report. The experts on the effectiveness of lockdowns state: “When only a few people are infected, lockdown measures have a much stronger effect.” The longer a lockdown lasts and the fewer people are willing to support the measure, the smaller the effect. Similar to the lockdown measures, contact tracing was particularly effective in the early phase of the pandemic.
Experts do not give a general recommendation for wearing masks
The experts believe that access restrictions on those who have been vaccinated, those who have recovered and/or those who have been tested, so-called 2G/3G measures, have a high effect – but above all in the first few weeks after the booster vaccination or recovery. However, protection against infection decreases significantly over time. In the current phase of the pandemic, the assessment is difficult. If access restrictions were necessary, testing should first be recommended as a condition of access, regardless of vaccination status, the panel advises. How well containment via testing can work needs to be further researched.
The verdict on wearing masks is initially clear: this could be “an effective tool”. But: “An ill-fitting and not tight-fitting mask has a reduced or no effect.” Since the corona virus is more likely to be transmitted indoors than outdoors, “in future, the obligation to wear a mask should be restricted to indoor areas and places with a higher risk of infection,” the panel said. “A general recommendation to wear FFP2 masks cannot be derived from the data so far.”
The exact effectiveness of school closures in curbing the spread of the virus is still open. Because several measures were introduced at the schools at the same time, so that the effect of individual measures cannot be measured. At the same time, the panel notes that, in contrast to this, the “unintended effects” were definitely examined. The panel advises that another commission of experts should carefully examine these unintended consequences “with special consideration of the child’s welfare”.
Evaluation report not as promising as hoped
The evaluation report was eagerly awaited. At the same time, however, expectations were already dampened in advance. For example, the Greens health politician Janosch Dahmen said in the RTL/ntv program “Frühstart” that it would be able to provide a good basis for further political consultations. “But I believe that there can be more legal information there about the legal architecture of the Infection Protection Act.”
The scientists had already shown skepticism in advance as to whether a conclusive assessment would be possible with the funds available to the commission, Dahmen continued. He therefore counted “rather on indications where further research is required when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of individual measures”.
disagreement in the board
The “Bild” newspaper had previously reported that there had been a heated argument in the 18-strong expert commission. According to the newspaper, epidemiologist Klaus Stöhr does not agree with the committee’s assessment of numerous restrictions such as lockdowns, school closures and 2G rules. Stöhr would like a more critical assessment of the measures, but could not enforce this in the committee, it said.
Stöhr joined the expert panel as a replacement for the virologist Christian Drosten, who has long been critical of the federal and state corona measures. The Bonn virologist Hendrik Streeck is also one of the experts. Although Streeck has often criticized the government’s measures, according to the report, unlike Stöhr, he supports the paper.