Masks yes – but only if they fit well. That is one of the central statements of the expert committee, which should evaluate the Corona measures in Germany. Now it’s politics’ turn.

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 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.

Difficult to assess in the current situation

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,” according to the committee. “A general recommendation to wear FFP2 masks cannot be derived from the data so far.”

The effects of individual measures are blurred

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, the “unintended effects” were thoroughly examined. The panel advises that another commission of experts should carefully examine these unintended consequences “with special consideration of the child’s welfare”.

Scientists from various disciplines belong to the expert committee. On behalf of the legislature, the evaluation should primarily shed light on the requirements in the context of the “epidemic situation of national importance”. This situation, determined by the Bundestag according to the Infection Protection Act, lasted for several months until the end of November 2021 and made it possible to close numerous facilities and meet everyday requirements.

Dahmen: The report’s informative value is limited

The Greens health expert Janosch Dahmen attaches only limited significance to the expert report on the assessment of the previous corona measures. “The report provides additional information, but by no means a conclusive assessment of the effect of corona protection measures,” said Dahmen of the German Press Agency in Berlin.

In many places in the report, the committee that drafted the expertise pointed out the uncertainties that existed in the assessment. “The absence of evidence of efficacy is not evidence of the absence of efficacy,” Dahmen noted. “The informative value of the report is therefore limited.”