Germany’s lockdown proposal to ‘save Christmas’: What you need to know

A draft government document shows Chancellor Angela Merkel wants a partial lockdown in November to 'save Christmas'. Here's what we know so far.

Germany's lockdown proposal to 'save Christmas': What you need to know
A beer garden in Munich closed during the spring lockdown in April. Photo: DPA

Merkel is holding an emergency meeting with Germany's state leaders on Wednesday to discuss how to slow down the spread of Covid-19 throughout the country.

According to a draft document seen before the summit, Merkel is pushing for a partial nationwide lockdown that would see tough contact restrictions plus the closure of bars, restaurants and hotels. Schools and Kitas would remain open under the plans.

The idea would be for the lockdown to run for most of November in order to get some control of the situation so people can spend time with family at Christmas.

For the latest explainer on the coronavirus rules for Germany CLICK HERE

What's the aim?

Germany is aiming “to interrupt the infection dynamics quickly so that no far-reaching restrictions are necessary during the Christmas period”, according to the draft document.

“Families and friends should be able to meet each other even under corona conditions during the Christmas season. This requires a joint effort now, as was the case in spring.”

A far-reaching lockdown throughout Germany would apply throughout next month (starting November 2nd until the end of the month) under the proposals.

On Wednesday the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control reported 14,964 new Covid-19 infections within 24 hours. There have been 10,183 reported deaths in Germany since the start of the pandemic.

Contact restrictions

Under the draft plans, the government wants to impose new contact restrictions. It would mean people could only meet others from one other household (or their own household) in public throughout Germany.

Celebrations or gatherings in public places or in homes would not be allowed.

Hotel closures

Domestic tourist accommodation would be banned during the lockdown period, under the plans. It means overnight accommodation in Germany would only be offered for “necessary and expressedly non-tourist purposes”.

Merkel is meeting with state premiers on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Bars and restaurants shut

Hospitality establishments such as restaurants, bars, cafes and similar venues would close, except for deliveries and collection of food for takeaway.

Leisure facilities affected

Entertainment events would not be allowed throughout Germany for the entire lockdown period under plans.

Theatres, opera venues and concert halls would close. The closure proposal also covers recreational and amateur sports activities plus all sports facilities, including swimming pools, fitness studios and similar venues. Fairs, cinemas and amusement parks would also shut.

READ ALSO: Merkel set to 'push for lockdown light across Germany'

Schools, daycare centres and shops remain open

Schools and kindergartens should remain open, the draft states. However, states should introduce further protective measures in these areas. According to the draft, the retail trade should remain open overall, subject to conditions on hygiene, access control (thought to be one customer per 10 square metres of space) and avoidance of queues.

Beauty salons, massage facilities and tattoo shops

Due to the crisis, the federal government wants to close personal care businesses such as beauty salons, massage practices or tattoo studios for three and a half weeks in November.

Hairdressing salons, however, will remain open with the existing hygiene regulations, the document states. Medically necessary treatments such as physiotherapy should also continue to be possible.

Aid for businesses plus working from home

In view of the restrictions, the government wants to extend aid to companies and improve conditions for the badly affected economic sectors, such as the culture and events industry.

Industry, as well as small and medium-sized firms, should be able to work safely and comprehensively, the draft went on to say. Employers have a special responsibility for their employees to protect them from infections and to quickly identify infection chains.

Wherever feasible, working from home, or 'home office' as it's known in Germany, should be allowed by employers.

EXPLAINED: What might a new lockdown in Germany look like?

Risk groups

The elderly and other vulnerable people are to be given special protection. Rapid corona tests “should now be used quickly and as a priority in this area” so that safe contacts could be made, the draft states.

However, the special protection for people in hospitals, nursing homes and other similar facilities should not lead to complete social isolation, the government says.

Ahead of Wednesday's talks, Merkel said she understood that the coronavirus measures were asking a lot and stressed that they would only ever be temporary.

“The restrictions serve to protect our citizens and vulnerable groups in particular,” she said, adding that she wanted to avoid “millions of people being excluded from society”.

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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.”