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HEALTH

Germany bans gatherings of more than two to control coronavirus spread

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday that gatherings of more than two people will be banned in public to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Germany bans gatherings of more than two to control coronavirus spread
People at Berlin's Tempelhof field on Sunday. Photo: DPA

“Our own behaviour is the most effective way” of slowing the rate of infection, Merkel said of the unprecedented nationwide measures, which are initially slated to remain in force for two weeks.

The new restrictions were agreed on by Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states in a telephone conference on Sunday. 

READ ALSO: 'Saturday is a crucial day': Germany to decide if coronavirus lockdown necessary

“Staying in public places is only permitted alone, with another person not living in the household or with members of one's own household,” their resolution stated.

As of Sunday evening, there were a total of more than 24,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, with more than 90 deaths.

The stricter measures are intended to prevent a rapid spread of the virus so that the health care system will not be overloaded and intensive care beds in hospitals remain free for seriously ill infected persons.

According to Merkel, people in Germany are required to reduce contact with other people outside the members of their own household to an absolutely necessary minimum. 

In public, wherever possible, a minimum distance of at least 1.5 metres must be maintained from people other than relatives from their own household.

People at Berlin's Tempelhof field on Sunday. Photo: DPA

No strict curfew

The politicians opted for these rules in lieu of a strict lockdown, which has already been put in place by other European countries such as France, Spain and Italy. 

On Friday, the states of Bavaria and Saarland decided to enforce lockdowns, with Saxony also opting for a curfew over the weekend which goes into effect on Monday. While the specifics of each curfew vary, they don’t permit leaving the home except for essential reasons.

READ ALSO: Bavaria and Saarland become first German states to impose lockdowns

The nationwide restrictions allow people to leave the house for activities they need to do.

“It is possible to go to work, receive emergency care, go shopping, visit the doctor, participate in meetings, necessary appointments and examinations, do individual sports and exercise in the fresh air – as well as other necessary activities,” reads the resolution.

Groups of people celebrating not only in public places, but also in apartments and private facilities are unacceptable, said Merkel. 

Police will fine those who are caught breaking the restrictions, said Merkel, without specifying the amount.

Cafes, restaurants and pubs are to be closed nationwide but takeaway will be allowed. “Catering establishments will be closed,” the resolution states. The delivery and collection of take-away food for consumption at home remains permitted.

Merkel appealed to citizens' “reason and empathy” in implementing the  contact restrictions, saying she had been “very moved” by how closely people  had stuck to less stringent measures implemented in recent days.

“That's how we can save lives,” the chancellor recalled.

“It's of vital, vital importance to obey the rule” to remain at least two metres away from other people, Merkel said, adding “at that distance the risk  of infection is close to zero.”

Asked if she too was respecting the distancing requirements, Merkel said  “my life has fundamentally changed and mostly consists of telephone and video conferences”.

 

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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