‘Respect each other’: Merkel appeals to public to follow coronavirus restrictions

On Monday afternoon Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) made an urgent appeal to German residents to adhere to social distancing and mask regulations to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

'Respect each other': Merkel appeals to public to follow coronavirus restrictions
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) makes a statement following a video conference with the Harz District Health Office. Photo: DPA

Merkel said she was informed that over the holiday weekend many people were not adhering to the restrictions, for example by not wearing face masks in supermarkets, as is now required around Germany, reported DPA. 

READ ALSO: Merkel 'greatly concerned' as public life in Germany starts to reopen

In the newest phase of the pandemic, “despite all the relaxation, we really do have the certainty that people will adhere to the Grundgebote (basic commandments),” said Merkel on Monday after a video conference with representatives of the Health Department in the Harz Mountains.

“So keep your distance, and wear mouth and nose protection. Respect each other,” said Merkel.

“This is very important.”

Merkel’s words followed weekend protests which broke out in Berlin, Frankfurt, Dortmund and several other German cities. An estimated 10,000 people attended a rally in Stuttgart, while 3,000 attended a demonstration in Munich to protest the restrictions. 

Many fear that such illegal gatherings – as well as a growing number of people in Germany turning a blind eye to regulations – would cause a rebound in the coronavirus reproduction number. 

The Robert Koch Institute for public health said Germany's closely watched reproduction rate (R0) had climbed to 1.1, meaning 10 people with COVID-19 infected on average 11 others. 

As recently as Wednesday, Germany's number stood at 0.65. But since then the country has reported clusters of new cases at slaughterhouses and at care homes for the elderly.

READ ALSO: Rise in coronavirus infections spurs concern across Germany

Merkel continued say that only in two to three weeks will it be known how the relaxation of the corona restrictions decided on during the previous week will affect the total number of infections. 

'A central role'

The Chancellor also thanked the Harz health department on behalf of all health departments in Germany for their work. 

“The public health service has been given a central role in the fight against the pandemic,” she said. They will help decide “whether we can really trace all contacts in newly infected people”.

Saxony-Anhalt's Prime Minister Reiner Haseloff and District Administrator Martin Skiebe (both CDU) had also joined the conference. 

The Harz health department had been faced with a special challenge when the coronavirus had broken out in the central contact point for asylum seekers in Halberstadt.

More than 120 people became infected. The communal accommodation was under quarantine until the beginning of May. 

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German vaccines commission recommends fourth Covid jab for over-60s

Germany's Standing Vaccines Commission (STIKO) has issued a recommendation for all over-60s in Germany to get a fourth Covid vaccination.

German vaccines commission recommends fourth Covid jab for over-60s

Previously, STIKO had only suggested a second booster – or fourth Covid jab – for people aged 70 or over, or people aged five and over with weakend immune systems and a particular high risk of a severe course of illness.

People with compromised immune systems are still advised to seek out a fourth dose of the vaccine. 

The vaccines panel announced on Thursday that it was expanding its recommendation “with the primary aim of providing particularly at-risk individuals with even better protection against severe Covid 19 diseases and Covid 19-related deaths”. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I get a second Covid booster jab in Germany?

As a general rule, the fourth dose of vaccine should be an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer/BioNTech and should be administered no sooner than six months after the third dose or last Covid infection.

In some “justified” cases, this can be shortened to four months.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) welcomed the news on Thursday, stating that the recommendation was “overdue”. 

“I definitely advise citizens over 60 to follow STIKO’s advice and not wait for the new vaccines,” Lauterbach told t-online, referring to a new set of vaccines designed specifically to combat infections with Omicron subtypes BA.4 and BA.5. 

The number of cases and deaths is still too high, he added. “The vaccines available in Germany, however, reliably protect against death and severe progression of the virus.”

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab