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LIVING IN GERMANY

‘Second lockdown needed if Germany hits 20,000 new infections daily,’ warns health chief

Germany on Friday reported more than 11,000 confirmed new Covid-19 cases within 24 hours. Now a medical expert has warned a shutdown could be imposed if the country reaches 20,000 daily infections.

'Second lockdown needed if Germany hits 20,000 new infections daily,' warns health chief
A lockdown is in place in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Chairman of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, said a lockdown could become necessary if the number of new daily infections rises to 20,000 per day.

On Friday the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) registered 11,242 new cases within a day. This was 45 fewer than Thursday, when the highest number of new Covid-19 infections in Germany was recorded since the start of the pandemic.

According to the RKI, the total number of cases recorded in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic stands at 403,291. A total of 9,954 people have died, with 49 deaths recorded within the last 24 hours. The number of people who've recovered from the virus is estimated to be 306,100.

The RKI dubbed the situation in Germany on Thursday “very serious”. In some regions, an uncontrollable outbreak could occur, warned the institute's president Lothar Wieler. However, there is a chance to slow down the further spread of the virus, he added.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus situation in Germany 'very serious', says top health institute

But according to Montgomery of the World Medical Association a shutdown on public life would have to take place if  infection chains cannot be traced. This would happen if the number of cases keep rising, he said.

At the moment he said there had to be regional lockdowns along the lines of the current shutdown in Berchtesgaden, southern Bavaria.

READ ALSO: Bavarian district on Austrian border goes into lockdown as coronavirus cases spike

 

Residents there can only leave their homes for essential reasons, such as for work or exercise, for two weeks.

Montgomery told RP Online: “We must react consistently in the event of local outbreaks.”

In Germany, the implementation of curfews or lockdowns is the responsibility of the individual states.

Some countries in Europe have been experimenting with the idea of so-called ‘mini-lockdowns' which act as a circuit breaker for rising coronavirus case rates.

The aim is to have a fairly short shutdown period to avoid a more significant lockdown in future.

READ ALSO: Analysis: How and why coronavirus cases are going up around Germany

No return to 'normal' travel– even in 2021

The medical president also dampened hopes for a vaccine to ease the situation in the near future.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) expects a vaccine in mid 2021. “But it will take two or three years for the entire population to be vaccinated,” said Montgomery, because “there are neither enough doses nor enough staff to vaccinate everyone at once”.

The population will have to live with restrictions for a long while yet. “We will have to live with and deal with the virus for years to come: keep your distance, wash your hands, wear masks,” said Montgomery.

“We will not have a summer holiday like we're used to in 2021 either,” the expert added.

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COVID-19 RULES

Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

Germany has unveiled a draft of new Covid laws to run until April next year, with mask mandates set to remain in force, but lockdowns and school closures ruled out. Here's what we know so far.

Masks and no lockdowns: Germany's new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The German government has prepared a graduated plan to try and limit the spread of Covid-19 this autumn. Under the new draft Infection Protection Act, states will be allowed to put in place certain rules to protect the population against Covid, from October. 

It was unveiled by the Health Ministry and Justice Ministry on Wednesday. 

Among the plans are for masks to remain compulsory in long-distance transport and in hospitals. They could also be made compulsory in other indoor areas, such as restaurants, but usually with exceptions for those who are recently vaccinated, recovered or tested. 

“If the number of cases rises sharply – masks (can also be enforced) outdoors where distances are not sufficient, and upper limits indoors,” said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, in a tweet where he showcased the plans. 

How long will the law be in place?

The current Infection Protection Act runs out on September 23rd. The new laws, which form the legal basis for Covid-19 measures in Germany, will apply from October 1st to April 7th 2023.

READ ALSO: Masks and tests: The Covid rules that tourists to Germany should know about

What are the draft plans?

As shown above in the diagram tweeted by the Health Minister in German, the rules have been divided into “”winter tyres” (Winterreifen)  and “snow chains” (Schneeketten), which is meant to represent possible different stages.

There are rules that will apply to the whole of Germany during the autumn/winter and early spring, certain measures that states can bring in, and the option for tougher restrictions if the situation worsens.

Nationwide protective measures from October 1st 2022 to April 7th 2023:

– Mandatory FFP2 masks on airplanes and on long-distance public transport.

– Mandatory masks and testing for access to hospitals and similar facilities, as well as for employees.

– Exceptions to the requirement to provide proof of testing are envisaged for recently vaccinated and recovered people, as well as for people who are being treated in the respective facilities or service providers.

– Exemptions from the mask requirement are provided for some people receiving treatment, for children under six, for people who can’t wear a mask for medical reasons, and for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wears an FFP2 mask at a conference in June.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wears an FFP2 mask at a conference in June. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Optional tougher measures for states:

Under the draft plan, states can take additional measures if the pandemic situation requires. These include:

– Mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

– Mandatory masks in indoor spaces such as restaurants and cultural facilities. However, the plans envisage exceptions for people who have tested negatively against Covid, or who have been vaccinated or recently recovered. This could mean that the so-called ‘3G rule’ returns.

– Compulsory testing and/or masks in certain communal facilities (such as shelters for asylum seekers and children’s homes). Compulsory masks in schools would only apply to pupils from the fifth school year onwards.

Extreme measures when situation is critical:

State parliaments can enact even stricter measures if there is a threat of the health system or critical infrastructure becoming overburdened. These include:

– Compulsory wearing of masks indoors – and even outdoors if the minimum distance of 1.5 metre cannot be maintained. An exemption for recently vaccinated, tested or recovered people wouldn’t apply. 

– Mandatory health and safety plans (such as disinfectants and ventilation) for businesses and events in the recreational, cultural and sports sectors.

– Ordering a minimum distance of 1.5 m in public spaces and at outdoor events.

– Upper limits for participants at events in indoor areas.

What else should I know?

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, of the Free Democrats, said it was important that Germany would not see further lockdowns, but that masks were a key part of the plan. 

“There should only be restrictions on freedom if they are necessary,” said Buschmann. “Our concept therefore rejects lockdowns and curfews.

“Instead, we rely on measures that are both effective and reasonable. Masks protect. And in certain situations, mandatory masks are also reasonable.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP)

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) gives an interview to DPA on February 3rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

“That is why masks will be compulsory in hospitals and nursing homes as well as in long-distance transport. If the pandemic situation so requires, the states can also order compulsory masks for other areas of public life indoors. In culture, leisure, sport and gastronomy, however, there must be exceptions for tested, newly vaccinated and newly recovered persons.”

Buschmann said Germany was also relying on “individual responsibility of civil society – as most other European states do”.

He added that the government was paying “special attention” to schools.

“Children have a right to school education, and a school day that is as carefree as possible,” he said. “Therefore, there must be no school closures. A blanket obligation to wear masks in schools would also not be appropriate.”

What happens next?

The Cabinet will take a look at the proposals before the final draft goes to the Bundestag to be voted on. 

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