LATEST: Germany to extend coronavirus social distancing measures until May 10th

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff says Germany's 'ban on contact' measures will be extended.

LATEST: Germany to extend coronavirus social distancing measures until May 10th
wo people hang out with about 1.5 metre distance between them, while another couple sits close together, at the Karlshöhe park in Stuttgart on April 5th. Photo: DPA

Helge Braun told German broadcaster n-tv on Thursday that the 'no contact' measures, which include a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public (excluding families and household members) and 1.5 metres distance between people, would “certainly” remain in place for the time being until May 10th.

Leaders from Germany's 16 states are meeting with Merkel on Thursday April 30th to discuss further coronavirus plans.

The southern state of Bavaria, the worst-hit state in Germany, already announced on Tuesday April 28th that it was extending its coronavirus lockdown measures until Sunday May 10th.

Braun, of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU), said a larger discussion about further steps to ease the shutdown in Germany would take place at the next summit on May 6th.

He said that the decision to relax restrictions depended on the development of infection numbers. “We cannot yet tell from the current figures whether there will be further openings,” said Braun.

Merkel's chief of staff added that the development of the contact tracing app was extremely important going forward. “We need this as soon as possible,” he said.

Current restrictions expire on May 3rd

Germany has been slowly easing out of lockdown over the past 10 days, with many shops reopening and plans for pupils to get back in the classroom.

But lots of businesses, including bars, gyms and hotels, remain closed. Restaurants are only allowed to open to provide takeaway food. 

The German government and states decided on April 15th to extend coronavirus restrictions up to and including May 3rd, while also putting together a plan to begin to ease the lockdown.

Death rate rising in Germany
On Thursday Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute for public health, appealed for people in Germany to continue to follow the measures.
He said this week there were about 1,000 to 1,500 new cases of coronavirus infections per day. This is a big difference compared to last week, when there were still about 2,000 new cases per day.
As of Thursday, there were over 161,500 confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, according to figures from John Hopkins University. which reports a slightly higher number of figures than the RKI due to calculating data in real time throughout the day.
Of the confirmed cases there have been around 6,400 deaths and 123,500 people are reported to have recovered.
Wieler said the death rate in Germany had risen to 4 percent as the virus continues to take hold in care homes. The death rate is much lower compared to Spain, where it's currently 11.3 percent and in the UK where it's 13.5 percent.
The average age of those who've died in Germany is 81-years-old.
A total of 17 percent of all cases in Germany are treated in hospital. According to Wieler, 2.7 percent of people with coronavirus in Germany have developed pneumonia.
Wieler said the reproduction rate had dropped below the critical value of 1 to 0.76, meaning 10 people with coronavirus infect on average 7.5 others. Ministers and virologists have hammered home the importance of squeezing the number below 1.0.
Experts say the infection rate should not be taken out of context and “should only be looked at alongside other figures”, but continue to warn against flouting coronavirus rules.

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Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

Health ministers across Germany's 16 states are debating the government's new Covid plan - and politicians in Bavaria say they want more clarity.

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

On Tuesday, federal and state health ministers planned to discuss the Covid protection proposals for autumn and winter presented last week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP).

However, some states and politicians are not satisfied with the plans. 

Under the proposals, masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

States will also have the power to take tougher Covid measures if the situation calls for it, such as mandatory masks indoors, but lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The draft law states that there can be exceptions from wearing masks in indoor spaces, such as restaurants, for recently Covid-vaccinated or recovered people. 

But Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told DPA that these planned exemptions were not justified because vaccinated and recovered people can still transmit infections. “There are clear gaps in the current draft law,” said the CSU politician.

Dominik Spitzer, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament, also questioned this exception, saying the rules “simply made no sense”.

“With the current virus variant, that would be impossible to convey, since even vaccinated people can continue to carry the virus,” the FDP politician told Bavarian broadcaster BR24. 

The coalition government’s graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, is set to be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

The powers for the states are a first step, “but they do not go far enough for us”, Holetschek added, while calling for some points to be tightened up. “We need strong guidelines for autumn and winter.”

Holetschek said the government needed to tighten up the criteria with which states can adopt and enforce more effective measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of Covid rules?

Meanwhile, CDU health politician Erwin Rüddel said Germany was on the “wrong track” and the country should find “a completely different approach” to Covid policy than it has so far.

He accused the coalition government of being in “panic mode” and said he doubted the Bundestag would pass the proposals.

“I believe, there will be significant changes (to the draft)”, he said.

But the chairperson of the doctors’ association Marburger Bund, Susanne Johna, backed the plans.

“The proposal for the new Infection Protection Act gives the states sufficient possibilities to react adequately to the infection situation,” Johna told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

“The states can take regionally adapted measures to protect people if the need arises. I can’t understand why this concept is being called into question right away.”