What can we expect from Germany’s plans to tighten coronavirus measures at social gatherings?

Health ministers are set to meet Monday to discuss how to limit the spread of coronavirus, particularly at private parties and other social gatherings. What can we expect?

What can we expect from Germany's plans to tighten coronavirus measures at social gatherings?
People having beers in the centre of Frankfurt am Main on Sunday night. Photo: DPA

What's happening?

Germany is seeing a rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and it's causing concern all round.

According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) released on Saturday, the number of confirmed cases in Germany rose by 2,034 over the preceding 24 hours, the highest number since the end of April.

On Sunday the number of cases reported within 24 hours was 782. But keep in mind that there is often a lower figure at this time of the week because not all health authorities transmit data to RKI at the weekend.

“We should be worried,” Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said on Friday regarding the recent infection spike. He urged the public to act “responsibly” by sticking to infection control measures like social distancing and mask-wearing.

Where are the increased cases coming from?

According to authorities, private parties and people returning from risk areas on holiday are currently the main contributors to the spread of Covid-19 in Germany.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, 33 percent of new cases were traced back to people celebrating or meeting friends at home. And in Berlin, as many as 60 percent of infections have been traced to private homes, with either people living together infecting one another, or visitors contracting Covid-19 at parties and family celebrations.

Meanwhile, the RKI has urged people to avoid large gatherings particularly if they are indoors. Plus the RKI says “events with family and friends should be limited to close family members and friends”.

Last week the institute highlighted the risks of “speaking loudly, singing or laughing” in groups. 

How is the government reacting?

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn and the health ministers of the 16 states are set to meet on Monday to debate how to go forward.

Among the topics to be discussed at the conference is the possibility of stricter measures at family celebrations and other social events, said Berlin's health senator Dilek Kalayci of the centre-left Social Democrats, who chairs the conference.

As The Local reported at the weekend, regional politicians are calling for tougher rules on private parties.

“Private celebrations are a very great danger,” Ursula Nonnemacher, the minister of health of Brandenburg, said.  
If the number of infections continues to rise “at this rate”, she added, there was another threat of “tough contact restrictions”. “Everyone should be aware of that.”

So far there is no clear line on the question of whether there should be new upper limits for private celebrations.

Last week there were calls by doctors for nationwide uniform rules on private events. But that has been met with resistance in several German states.

Will they take action?

It looks likely. Chancellor Merkel of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) is set to meet with state leaders on Thursday, and this topic will also be on the agenda.

Health Minister Spahn, of the CDU, has suggested that due to the rising infection rate, the size of private celebrations in Germany needs to be discussed again.

READ ALSO: German health officials warn against talking loudly, singing and laughing

So far, different regulations apply across the federal states. In Berlin, for example, indoor events with up to 500 people are currently allowed.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, “social events such as weddings” indoors are limited to a maximum of 150 guests, whereas in Bavaria they are capped at a maximum of 100 guests.

The federal government believes it's mainly at private parties where hygiene and distance rules (1.5 metre between people not from your household) are not being observed.

That means it's likely a nationwide cap on the number of people attending social gatherings could be introduced.

In view of the rising number of infections, authorities are also thinking about extending the obligation to wear masks, for example in workplaces and in schools.

CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer explained over the weekend that many companies have already introduced compulsory masks in the workplace.

“This could be in any case a step, which becomes obligatory country-wide” to prevent infection spikes and closures of workplaces, she said.


Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday made a push for equal pay for men and women international footballers after Germany's successful run at the recent European Championships.

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

“My position on this is clear,” Scholz said after a meeting with the German Football Association (DFB) to discuss the issue.

“We talked about how we can continue to help more girls and women get excited about football. Of course, the wages at such tournaments play a major role in this,” he said.

“That’s why it makes sense to discuss equal pay. I made the suggestion and I’m very grateful that there is a willingness to discuss this issue.”

Germany scored their biggest major tournament success since 2015 at this year’s European Championships, losing to England in the final at Wembley.

Scholz attended the final and also supported the women’s team by tweeting: “It’s 2022, and women and men should be paid equally. This also applies to sport, especially for national teams.”

READ ALSO: Scholz to cheer on Germany at Euro 2022 final

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP headquarters on Tuesday.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP (German Football Association) headquarters on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany’s women would have received €60,000 each if they had triumphed at the tournament, while the men would have received €400,000 each had they prevailed at the Euros last year.

Bernd Neuendorf, president of the DFB, said he understood the argument “that equal work and success should also have the same value”.

“I’m willing to discuss in our committees whether our payment system is up to date or whether it should be adjusted,” he said.

Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg suggested that international footballers’ wages could be evened out by paying women more and men less.

Officials must now “follow up with action” after the meeting, she said in an interview with the ZDF broadcaster.

Scholz said he was “very, very proud” of the women’s performance at the Euros, even if “it didn’t quite work out”.

“I hope it will have a long-lasting effect, not only on the players themselves… but also on football in Germany,” he said.