Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) no longer rules out an early end to the mask requirement in long-distance transport and in medical facilities.

"It may well be that we will abolish the mask requirement earlier," said Lauterbach of the magazine "Stern" according to information from Wednesday.

But he didn't want to set a date.

It is currently "still too early," said the minister.

He emphasized: "We still have full clinics and staff failures." It is important to monitor the situation very closely and then evaluate it.

According to previous planning, the mask requirement in long-distance transport and in medical facilities, which is regulated nationwide, runs until April 7th.

On Tuesday, the FDP renewed its call for the mask requirement to be quickly lifted in long-distance transport.

"The mask requirement in long-distance transport must fall by the beginning of February at the latest," said FDP Secretary General Bijan Djir-Sarai of the "Bild" newspaper.

The corona pandemic is over.

It is high time to withdraw fundamental rights encroachments such as the obligation to wear masks.

The debate had only been held shortly before the turn of the year, after the prominent virologist Christian Drosten said that he believed the pandemic was over.

At the time, the SPD and the Greens in the government rejected the FDP’s call for an end to the remaining corona measures.

Masks are compulsory in public transport in five other federal states

In local public transport, on the other hand, more and more countries are already lifting the mask requirement or will soon do so.

In Saxony, masks will no longer have to be worn on buses and trains from January 16th.

The same applies in Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania from February 2nd and in Thuringia from February 3rd.

The mask requirement has already been abolished in Saxony-Anhalt, Bavaria and Schleswig-Holstein.

However, wearing masks is still generally recommended.

North Rhine-Westphalia therefore declared that it would not yet announce the end of the mask requirement in local public transport.

The state government will decide on possible adjustments before the current Corona Protection Ordinance expires," said a spokesman for the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Health.

The federal states can decide for themselves whether masks are compulsory in buses and trains in local transport.

The North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Health last passed an ordinance on December 16th, with which the existing regulations were extended until January 31st.

The Saarland Council of Ministers recently extended the state’s Corona regulation and thus the obligation to wear masks in local public transport.

"Especially in places where many people come together in a confined space, a mouth-nose cover has been shown to help prevent chains of infection," said the Ministry of Health in Saarbrücken.

The new regulation is valid up to and including February 10th.

Lauterbach also commented on the corona development in China after the zero-Covid policy was abolished: “The situation is indeed shocking.

The hospitals are overcrowded and we see an immeasurable amount of human suffering.” He believes that “the risk of new variants developing there is not great, but it should not be underestimated either”.

Lauterbach emphasized the need to "consistently control those entering China and (to) look out for variants of the virus that have certain characteristics".