Merkel ‘set to push for lockdown light across Germany’

With Chancellor Angela Merkel to meet with state leaders this week to discuss how to control the coronavirus resurgence, German media sites are reporting that a nationwide "lockdown light" is on the horizon.

Merkel 'set to push for lockdown light across Germany'
A restaurant in Rottal-Inn, Bavaria, which is set to go into lockdown. Photo: DPA

The possible planned shutdown could force the closure of bars, restaurants and impose more limits on public events, German daily Bild reported on Monday.

Under this plan, schools and shops would remain open with more restrictions, and only close if the situation was extremely severe. However other parts of public life, such as the hospitality sector, would be shut down for a period of time.

Wednesday's meeting between Merkel and Germany's 16 state leaders is being held to discuss how to slow down the spread of coronavirus. In the discussions, Merkel is expected to push for far-reaching measures such as a “lockdown light”, said BIld.

But the government has remained tight-lipped on the plans. Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert did, however, say on Monday that the aim was to discuss how to break the rising trend as fast as possible. Everyone is aware “that every day counts,” he said.

German TV station ntv reported that Merkel was planning a drastic restriction of social contacts, citing government circles.

A lockdown, which means far-reaching restrictions on public life, would be a major escalation for Germany, where authorities have so far tried to avoid any nationwide action.

To combat the first wave of coronavirus in spring, the federal and state governments decided to close schools and day-care centres plus cultural and sports facilities to the public.

Most restaurants, shops and service providers were not allowed to receive customers, and gatherings in churches or sports clubs were prohibited. No more than two people from different households were allowed to meet.

READ ALSO: Merkel warns of a 'dramatic' coronavirus situation in Germany

Another district in lockdown

So far, the country has been focusing on local lockdowns.

The Bavarian district of Rottal-Inn became the latest to enter a lockdown. It follows Berchtesgadener Land, which entered a shutdown on October 20th.

Rottal-Inn reported 228 new infections per 100,000 people over the past week. Residents will only be allowed to leave their own homes for essential reasons, according to the District Office. That could be for work, essential shopping or outdoor exercise.

Schools and day-care centres are initially closed for the next 10 days, indicating how severe the situation is. Catering outlets can only offer take-away food. However, unlike in spring, many shops can remain open.

When districts reach thresholds, such as 50 new infections per 100,000 people in seven days, they must implement tougher measures.

Germany reported 11,409 new coronavirus cases within 24 hours on Tuesday. One week ago the number was 6,868.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, a total of 449,275 people have contracted Covid-19 in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of deaths in connection with the virus rose by 42 in the last 24 hours to a total of 10,098. The RKI estimates that around 326,700 people have now recovered.

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

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now