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ANGELA MERKEL

Coronavirus continues to be a ‘danger for all of us,’ warns Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel once again urged people in Germany to stick to restrictions, saying the coronavirus pandemic is still a real danger.

Coronavirus continues to be a 'danger for all of us,' warns Merkel
Angela Merkel in the Bundestag on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

During a session in the Bundestag, Merkel warned against possible setbacks as Germany learns to live with the virus. She also paid tribute to health workers.

“The basic facts have not changed,”  Merkel said. As long as there is no treatment or vaccine, coronavirus continues to be a “danger for each and every one of us”.

Merkel said Germany could be satisfied with the way it has handled the pandemic so far. However, she urged people not to endanger what the country has achieved in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, adding the pandemic will be with us for some time.

“It would be depressing if we had to go back to the restrictions we want to leave behind because we want too much too quickly,” she said.

READ ALSO: 'First phase of coronavirus pandemic behind us,' says Merkel

Germany has managed to slow the number of infections down, and largely keep the reproduction rate – which shows how many people with coronavirus infect others – below or around 1.

As of Wednesday May 13th, a total of 173,171 coronavirus infections had been registered in Germany, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. Of those cases, there have been around 7,738 deaths and 147,298 people have recovered.

The number of new infections “lies within an area that our health system can cope with,” said Merkel, who also praised the “fabulous work” of the health authorities.

READ ALSO: Merkel cites hard evidence she was target of Russian hacking

Members of parliament then put questions to Merkel on different topics. Here are a few of the highlights:

Tax increase: When asked whether the federal government was planning tax increases, the Chancellor said that was not on the cards at this point.

“As of today, there are no plans whatsoever to raise taxes and duties,” Merkel said.

In view of the situation of the economy and workers, Merkel referred to state aid such as short-time work (Kurzarbeit), liquidity support and the reduction of VAT for restaurateurs.

She said she was glad the pandemic had hit Germany while the country was in a stable economic situation. “We have the chance to cope with it well,” she said. “But I'm not saying nobody will notice a difference.”

Coronavirus infections in meatpacking districts: Merkel said action needed to be taken in view of coronavirus outbreaks in the workforces of meat factories, thought to be related to crowded housing conditions of workers.

READ ALSO:

Authorities have temporarily closed the Westfleisch slaughterhouse in Coesfeld, North Rhine-Westphalia after news broke that a number of workers at the site had become infected with the coronavirus.

Labour Minister Hubertus Heil is to present a plan that will address the issues next Monday.

Merkel spoke of “frightening news” from the meat industry. “There are considerable shortcomings, especially in housing,” she said. She emphasized that local authorities were responsible for inspections of occupational health and safety standards.

European pandemic control: Merkel said that better European mechanisms and systems are needed to exchange information to prepare for the next pandemic.

Burden-sharing in EU climate protection: In the course of raising the EU's climate protection target for 2030, Merkel wants to renegotiate what share the individual member states have to contribute.

It's “quite natural” that new negotiations had to be held on the so-called burden sharing, she said.

At the end of April, Merkel had welcomed the EU Commission's plans to increase the 2030 target, without mentioning any conditions.

So far, greenhouse gas emissions are to be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. But the Commission wants to make the target 50 to 55 percent.

Germany already has a 55 percent goal for 2030. How much the members states have to contribute to the EU target depends on their prosperity, measured by the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
 

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COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules in place across German states

Many Covid restrictions have been dropped in Germany, but some rules remain in place. And as infections increase again, it's important to be aware of what you should do if you get Covid.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules in place across German states

Germany has relaxed or changed many Covid restrictions in recent months. However, with Covid infections rocketing again, people are reminding themselves of what rules remain in place, and what they have to do if they get a positive test.

Here’s a quick roundup of what you should know. 

Face masks

Covid masks have to be worn when travelling on public transport, including planes departing to and from Germany. 

They also have to be worn in places where there are more vulnerable people, such as care homes, hospitals and doctor offices. 

Masks are not mandatory anymore in shops (including supermarkets) and restaurants, but individual businesses can enforce the rule so watch out for signs on the door. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

FFP2 masks have become the standard in Germany, but in some cases other medical masks are sufficient.

There are no longer any entry rules to public venues such as the 3G or 2G rule, meaning that people had to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. 

However, they could return in autumn if the infection protection laws are adapted, and if the Covid situation gets worse.

Mandatory isolation 

The rules on isolation differ from state to state, but there is one general requirement: those who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

If you get a positive result at home, you should go to a test centre and undergo a rapid antigen test. If it is positive, the quarantine obligation kicks in. If it is negative, you have to get a PCR test.

If you have Covid symptoms, you should contact your doctor, local health authorities or the non-emergency medical on-call service on 116 117. They can advise or whether you should get a PCR test. 

Across German states, the isolation period lasts 10 days, but – as we mentioned above – there are differences on how it can end earlier. 

In Berlin, for instance, it can be shortened from the fifth day with a negative test if you have been symptom free for 48 hours. If this isn’t the case, the isolation is extended until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours and tested negative. But you can leave without a negative test after 10 days. 

A positive Covid test.

A positive Covid test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Anyone who tests positive for Covid using a rapid test at a testing centre can have a free PCR test to confirm whether they have Covid-19. If the PCR test is negative, there is no obligation to go into quarantine.

In Bavaria, the isolation period is five days after the first positive test. For isolation to end on day five you must be symptom free for at least 48 hours. Otherwise, isolation is extended for 48 hours at a time until the maximum of 10 days. 

A test-to-release is not needed to end the isolation, unless the person works in a medical setting. 

READ ALSO: Germany sets out new Covid isolation rules

After isolation, Bavaria recommends that you wear an FFP2 mask in public places indoors and reduce contact for an extra five days. 

The state of Hesse has a similar system to Bavaria where a test is not needed to end the isolation early (unless the person works in a medical setting).

In North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg, residents can end their Covid isolation on the fifth day if they get a negative test (carried out at a testing centre). Otherwise the isolation period continues until the 10th day, or until they get a negative test.

Close contacts of people infected with Covid (including household contacts) no longer have to quarantine in Germany, but they are advised to get tested regularly and monitor for symptoms, as well as reduce contacts for five days. 

As ever, check with your local authority for the detailed rules.

Travel

Germany recently provisionally dropped almost all of its Covid travel restrictions, making it much easier to enter the country. 

The changes mean that entry into Germany is now allowed for all travel purposes, including tourism. The move makes travel easier – and cheaper – for people coming from non-EU countries, particularly families who may have needed multiple Covid tests for children. 

People also no longer have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test against Covid before coming to Germany – the so-called 3G rule. 

However, if a country is classed as a ‘virus variant’ region, tougher rules are brought in. 

It is likely that travel rules could be reinstated again after summer or if the Covid situation gets worse so keep an eye on any developments. 

READ ALSO: Germany drops Covid entry restrictions for non-EU travellers

Vaccine mandate

The mandate making Covid vaccinations compulsory for medical staff remains in place. A vaccine mandate that would have affected more of the population in Germany was rejected by the Bundestag in a vote in April

READ ALSO: Germany’s top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health care workers

Workplaces

Masks are no longer mandatory in workplaces, unless it is in a setting where more risks groups are, such as hospitals or care homes. 

The government no longer requires people to work from home, but employers and employees can reach their own ‘home office’ arrangement.

Tests are also no longer mandatory, but workplaces can offer their employees regular tests. 

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