German city near Frankfurt tightens coronavirus rules after infection rate rises

The city of Offenbach has tightened coronavirus restrictions after the number of infections increased.

German city near Frankfurt tightens coronavirus rules after infection rate rises
A sign in Offenbach urging people to observe the distance rule. Photo: DPA

Stricter measures will apply in the city, which lies near Frankfurt am Main in the central state of Hesse, after the number of coronavirus cases passed the critical mark of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days. 

Under the new rules, residents can only be in public places with a maximum of five people or with members of their own household.

Meanwhile, outdoor events will be limited to 100 people, while a maximum of 50 people will be allowed in closed rooms.

Restaurants and bars will have to close at midnight from this Saturday onwards. Police are to step up controls to ensure the quarantine is observed, authorities said on Friday.

The new regulations will initially remain in effect until September 3rd. Offenbach has a population of around 128,744 people.

'No lockdown'

Authorities were keen to stress there was no “shutdown” planned for the area.

Mayor Felix Schwenke reassured residents that there was no reason to panic, and that the preventive measures were being taken to avoid a blanket closure.

READ ALSO: Germany sees highest daily coronavirus infection toll since April

He called on everyone to follow the rules and refrain from unnecessary meetings and activities in the next 14 days. He said the situation was similar to what happened in spring when restrictions helped slow down the spread of coronavirus.

“Everyone must understand that right now,” he said.

The Hessian state government promised Offenbach its support. Hesse's Minister of Social Affairs, Kai Klose, also expressed concern about the rising coronavirus infection numbers in Offenbach as well as in the entire state.

Klose said the new infections are currently due in large part to people returning from travel. He called on people to stick to the rules including wearing masks on public transport and in shops. “There is no room for negligence or selfishness,” he said.

When districts in Germany register more than 50 new infections per 100,000 citizens in seven days they are required to impose measures to stop the spread.

According to city officials in Offenbach, around 650 people are currently in quarantine.

Rising numbers

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 1,427 new coronavirus cases in Germany on Friday. A total of 230,048 people have contracted the virus since the epidemic began, according to the latest figures.

About 9,260 people have died.

Much of the recent rise in new infections has been blamed on returning holidaymakers as well as parties and family gatherings.

READ ALSO: 'The trend can't continue': Merkel rules out easing coronavirus restrictions as cases spike

Hesse has registered around 14,260 cases since the start of the pandemic, and around 520 deaths. Around 6.26 million people live in the central state.

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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.”