Germany continues to ease coronavirus restrictions as 289 new cases logged

As states continues to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions, we looked at the latest on the epidemic in Germany.

Germany continues to ease coronavirus restrictions as 289 new cases logged
Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg: Hotel manager Cristina Gutu disinfects the bathroom of a room in the Arthotel in Magdeburg. Photo: DPA

States across Germany are continuing to loosen lockdown rules that were put in place to stall the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This week the tourism industry is kicking into action in some regions. Hotels in Berlin, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony can now welcome guests again after a two month shutdown.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the tourism industry was already allowed to welcome guests from its own state after the shutdown in mid-March.

But from now on, people from the other states are allowed to enter the northeast – but under certain conditions. For example, guests must pre-book an overnight stay in advance.

READ ALSO: Six great hikes in the northeast of Germany

In Berlin and Brandenburg, too, guests can once again stay in holiday homes, hostels and hotels. Hotels in Lower Saxony are also opening their doors to guests. However, they must remain at 60 percent capacity.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, too, bed occupancy in hotels or on campsites has so far been limited to 60 percent.

Elsewhere, holidaymakers and operators still have to be patient: in Saxony-Anhalt, hotels will likely be able to accept guests from other federal states as of May 28th. In Baden-Württemberg, holiday homes can currently only open if self-catering is possible. Hotels can open from May 29th.

In Bavaria, hotels will not open until May 30th. However, there are now more relaxations in place for the gastronomy industry: after the opening of outdoor areas, people can also now dine inside restaurants this week.

READ ALSO: Germans holidaying at home as fear of virus lingers

Meanwhile, some outdoor swimming pools are allowed to open in Berlin from May 25th, and will accept a limited number of guests who make an online reservation in advance.

In all cases, strict hygiene and distancing rules have to be in place.

READ ALSO: Is it safe to go swimming in Germany this summer?

289 new cases

On Monday May 25th Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control reported 289 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases since the outbreak began to 178,570. The number of deaths had climbed by 10 to 8,257 compared to the previous day.

According to the latest RKI data, the critical reproduction rate, or R-value, was 0.94 on Sunday. This means that each person with coronavirus infects on average slightly less than one other person. Experts have hammered home the importance of keeping the number under 1.

The R-value reflects the course of infection about one and a half weeks earlier. Since the middle of May, the RKI has also drawn up a so-called 7-day R. It refers to a longer period of time and is therefore less subject to daily fluctuations.

According to RKI estimates, the most recent 7-day value was 0.93. It shows the infection eight to 16 days ago.

READ ALSO: How worried should we be when Germany reports a higher coronavirus infection rate?

In the past seven days, only the city of Regensburg exceeded the critical limit of 50 new infections per 100,000 residents (72.1). In Bavaria, which has set a stricter limit of 35, the districts of Coburg (41.4) and Lichtenfels (41.9) exceeded this limit. In Thuringia, the Sonneberg district (35.6) is still severely affected.

The federal government has said some lockdown measures could be put back into place if the number of infections increase above set limits.

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

The states with the highest number of cases are Bavaria, with more than 46,326 confirmed cases and at least 2,382 deaths, North Rhine-Westphalia, with more than 37,298 cases and at least 1,565 deaths, and Baden-Württemberg, which has more than 34,431 confirmed cases and at least 1,698 deaths.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, which differs slightly from RKI data because it is updated throughout the day, there have been 180,328 confirmed coronavirus infections so far in Germany, and 8,287 people have died.

A total of 160,881 people are reported to have recovered from coronavirus.

State plans to end restrictions

Meanwhile, the eastern German state of Thuringia wants to end coronavirus lockdown measures.

State premier Bodo Ramelow said on Saturday that he wanted to make lockdown measures, including face masks and contact restrictions, a thing of the past.

“From June 6th, I would like to lift the general lockdown and replace it with a package of measures that focus on local authorisations,” he said.

On Monday, the eastern state of Saxony also announced that it would let go of all of its restrictions after June 5th – making only a few exceptions which have not yet been announced.

Current coronavirus restrictions are in place up to and including June 5th, but are expected to be extended in some form.

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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.”