UPDATE: Germany plans for tougher local lockdowns to ward off second coronavirus wave

Germany's federal and regional governments on Thursday agreed on tougher, more targeted lockdown measures to contain local outbreaks and ward off the threat of a second coronavirus wave.

UPDATE: Germany plans for tougher local lockdowns to ward off second coronavirus wave
People entering a train in Hamburg wearing face masks in April during the country-wide shutdown. Photo: DPA

The new rules allow for a ban on travel “in and out of the affected areas” to limit the spread of the virus, according to an agreement adopted by federal and local authorities.

It comes as countries across the world are reimposing curbs on public life in response to a surge in new infections.

Germany, which has been less affected by the pandemic than many of its neighbours, aims to respond to new clusters with hyper-local lockdowns and rapid contact tracing and testing, rather than blanket lockdowns of whole
towns or districts.

The need for clear rules was highlighted last month when a Covid-19 outbreak at a slaughterhouse in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia led to Germany's first renewed lockdowns, covering two neighbouring districts.

However a local court later ruled that the lockdown was too broad, and locals from the districts on holiday elsewhere in Germany complained about being turned away from their accommodation.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday voiced support for travel bans in and out of coronavirus hotspots.

She said that it was “better for citizens” to have certainty rather than being denied entry to a hotel upon arrival.

READ ALSO: Germany reports over 200,000 coronavirus cases since start of pandemic

Calling in the army

The text agreed on Thursday states that a travel ban should be imposed “if the numbers continue to rise and there's no certainty that the chain of infection has been broken” in the affected area.

Anyone wanting to leave a localised lockdown for another state must be able to show a negative coronavirus test that is less than 48 hours old, the agreement said.

Merkel's chief of staff Helge Braun told the ZDF broadcaster that the goal was to fight the virus with “faster, smaller and more precise” curbs rather than the larger lockdowns that have caused such economic devastation.

He said the military could even be called in to help ensure locals in an affected area get tested as quickly as possible.

Germany's Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB) welcomed the agreement, with CEO Gerd Landsberg calling local lockdowns “the right way forward”.

“This also means that lockdowns are not drawn out over months or weeks, but ideally last only a few days,” he told the Funke media group.

The new rules also come as Germany is anxiously eyeing the return of holidaymakers from abroad this summer, fearing they could be bringing the virus back with them.

Video footage of German tourists partying in Spain's Mallorca – without face masks or keeping the recommended 1.5 metres apart – has caused particular alarm.

'Reckless behaviour'

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned Germans not to undo the progress made in combatting the virus.

“Such behaviour is not just dangerous, but inconsiderate towards all those who would like to enjoy their holiday safely,” he told the Funke group.

“We've only just managed to open borders in Europe again. We must not jeopardise this with reckless behaviour.”

Meanwhile, the Tönnies slaughterhouse that was the source of the local outbreak in North Rhine-Westphalia reopened on Thursday after four weeks, prompting a protest from Greenpeace activists against mass meat production.

Germany has recorded just over 200,000 coronavirus cases to date, and 9,078 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute for disease control.

The country has credited early, widespread testing and its world-class healthcare system for keeping the fatality rate relatively low.

Germans have also generally complied with rules on social distancing and wearing face masks.

READ ALSO: How face masks have helped slow down the spread of coronavirus in Germany

More than 15 million people have also downloaded Germany's coronavirus warning app aimed at alerting people who've been in close proximity to an infected person.

Member comments

  1. Excellent Plan.
    But what about all those Idiots coming back from Mallorca – surely they intend to test them ON ARRIVAL in Germany. Telling people like that to self-isolate, for instance, will not work; they are obviously going to run around everywhere soon as they get back, as they just don’t care

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Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

People in Germany have to isolate at home for at least five days if they test positive for Covid. But four states want to see a change to this rule.

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

In a joint letter, the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein called on Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to drop the isolation requirement for people who get a Covid infection in Germany. 

Baden-Württemberg health minister Manne Lucha, of the Greens, said there should be a move towards people taking personal responsibility rather than the state ordering an isolation period, reported the Tagesschau. 

“We should gradually get into the mode of treating a corona infection like any other infectious disease where the rule is: if you are sick, stay at home,” said the Green politician.

The rules on isolation differ slightly from state to state in Germany, but the general requirement is that people 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.

In some states, and for hospital and care workers, a negative test is required to end the isolation period early.

Several politicians – as well as Andreas Gassen, chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, have previously spoken out in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

READ ALSO: Should Germany get rid of Covid mandatory isolation?

The four German states called on Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, to change the rules by October 10th.

In their letter, they refer to Austria, where the isolation obligation has been replaced by so-called “traffic restrictions” since August 1st.

Under these rules, people who get Covid-19 have to wear an FFP2 mask for 10 days in most places, and they are not allowed to visit nursing homes and clinics. They can, however, go to their workplace.

“The end of mandatory isolation has not led to any relevant increase in reported cases in Austria,” the four German health ministers said in their letter.

They argued that much of the population in Germany is immunised, either through vaccination or infection.

However, Lauterbach has so far rejected calls to get rid of the isolation requirement. He said that due to Covid cases rising, he didn’t want to “add fuel to the fire” and increase the risk of infections occurring in companies or at gatherings.

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU), said he was worried about lots of people having to take time off work to isolate at the same time, which could put pressure on critical infrastructure. 

Schleswig-Holstein’s health minister Kerstin von der Decken (CDU), said the adjustment of the isolation rules would be “a step on the way back to normality.”