The federal government could immediately abolish the obligation to wear masks on buses and trains.
This is what it says in the Infection Protection Act under Paragraph 28 b, not even the Bundesrat has to agree.
Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach can easily decree it.
People would soon be standing shoulder to shoulder again in rush-hour traffic and breathing in what the others breathed out.
But Lauterbach doesn't want that.
He says the winter is “not over yet”, the clinics are full, the staff is overwhelmed, the excess mortality is high.
In fact, without a mask requirement, there would be more infections.
But how many exactly?
Would a new wave emerge and the healthcare system collapse?
Editor in the politics of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.
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There is an answer to this question.
It reads: There would be ten percent more people with Corona in the hospital.
That means: In case of doubt, the increase would be lower because many sensible people still wear masks.
The figures come from a model calculation by the Technical University of Berlin.
In the current situation, almost 600 additional patients per week would come to the hospital.
The absolute number may change depending on the incidence of hospitalization.
It describes how many infected people are newly admitted to the hospital per 100,000 inhabitants.
Last week it was about seven.
Extrapolated to all inhabitants of the country, around 5800 people with Corona came to the hospital.
Ten percent of that is 580. That's how many extra beds you needed.
If that doesn't mean anything to you, you can also offset the benefits in other measures.
Then you could say: the obligation to wear masks on buses and trains is as good as the closure of all kindergartens.
Or like closing all schools.
Or like a home office obligation for everyone.
Kindergarten, school, workplace and train have a comparable R value, which means that a person infects a similar number of people with these activities.
Many are tired of masks
Of course, a pandemic cannot be precisely predicted.
Scientists cannot know whether Manfred Schneiderhahn from Kirchhörde has his rebellious day on Tuesday and gets on the subway without a mask.
Computer scientist Kai Nagel from the Technical University has got used to dealing with such imponderables.
He makes assumptions that are as good as it gets.
And then he calculates.
In this calculation, for example, the assumption was that only half of all passengers wear a mask anyway, although it is mandatory.
Ticket inspectors had reported this from experience.
And this fifty percent already includes the fact that some people wear masks, but they are so crooked and crooked that they don't help at all.
Many are tired of masks.
Over the years, the calculation model has been fed with new empirical values.
It learned how well an FFP-2 mask protects compared to a surgical mask and how high the aerosol density is in unventilated rooms after one, two or three hours.
The calculations are still not accurate to the decimal point, but they give a rough idea of what will happen if nobody, absolutely nobody, wears a mask on buses and trains.
Namely “an approximately ten percent higher burden on the hospitals”, as Nagel says.
The Göttingen physicist Viola Priesemann thinks this is plausible.
Without masks on buses and trains, ten percent more would be infected with Corona, she says.
She speaks of contagion, not of hospitalization.
But if more people get infected in the general population, more end up in the hospital: ten percent here means ten percent there.
At least in big cities.
In villages where there is no train and hardly any buses, the effect would of course be less.