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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Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

With infection numbers shooting up once again in Germany, states are set to bring in a new set of Covid measures on October 1st.

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of 'difficult' winter

From Saturday, masks will no longer be required on commercial flights, though people will still be expected to wear an FFP2 mask on long-distance trains.

States will also be given the option to introduce mandatory masks in other public indoor spaces, including on local public transport and in schools. If they choose to bring in masks, they’ll also have the freedom to introduce exceptions to masks for people who are recently vaccinated or who have tested negative for Covid.

States will also be able to introduce compulsory testing in schools and nurseries.

READ ALSO: German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Speaking at a press conference alongside Robert Koch Institute (RKI) chair Lothar Wieler on Friday, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach defended the decision to keep Covid rules in place when other countries in Europe have largely got rid of their pandemic measures. 

“It’s not for me to criticise what other countries are doing,” said Lauterbach. “We have a particularly difficult winter ahead of us due to the energy crisis, we don’t want to make it worse through the Covid crisis.”

The SPD politician also defended plans for mandatory masks for residents and staff in nursing and care homes. Having 40 or 50 vulnerable people together in an enclosed space is “extremely high-risk”, he said. 

Under the new rules set to be introduced on Saturday, residents of care homes will be expected to wear FPP2 masks in all common areas of the home, and will only be able to take them off in their bedrooms.

“For people in nursing homes, the FFP2 mask requirement means a considerable cut in their quality of life,” Regina Görner, chairwoman of the Federal Association of Senior Citizens’ Organisations (Bagso), told DPA:

“The nursing home is their home, in which they can then no longer move freely without a mask.”

Visitors to nursing homes, meanwhile, will have to supply a negative Covid test, while staff will be tested three times a week. 

Under the autumn and winter rules, people across Germany will also be required to wear an FFP2 mask at their doctor’s surgery and in medical outpatient facilities such as hospitals.

“We’re better prepared than last autumn,” Lauterbach told reporters on Friday. “We have the infection numbers under control, we have this wave under control.” 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

Steep rise in cases

As the weather turns colder, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has reported a steep rise in respiratory infections, including Covid-19.

Last week, the number of Covid patients jumped dramatically from 500,000 to 1.2 million per week, with cases rising significantly in every age group.

Meanwhile, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people shot up from 409 on Thursday to 466 on Friday. The previous week, the weekly incidence stood at 294 per 100,000 people. 

The numbers are believed to be partially inflated by the ongoing Oktoberfest beer festival, which is being held for the first time since the pandemic started. In Munich, the location of the festival, the weekly incidence is almost 800. 

Speaking at the press conference in Berlin on Friday, RKI chair Wieler warned people not to get complacent about the threat of infection.

“A mild course of illness simply means not ending up in hospital,” he said. “We should be conscious of how much risk we want take on, and how much risk we can avoid.”

RKI chief Lothar Wieler

Robert Koch Institute chair Lothar Wieler (l) and Heath Minister Karl Lauterbach (r) hold a press conference in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Despite the looming energy crisis, the RKI boss advised the public to ensure that rooms were well ventilated, adding that spaces normally occupied by a large number of people should be aired out more regularly.

He also advised people with Covid symptoms to stay home until they felt better in order to avoid passing on any infections, and warned that people should be especially careful to avoid contact with vulnerable people.

“Just like before, these people need our solidarity,” he said. 

Self-isolation and quarantine rules vary from state to state, but people who test positive for Covid generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10.

In some cases, people can take an additional Covid test in order to end their isolation early.

The RKI has also recommended that people wear a mask in public enclosed spaces. 

READ ALSO: What will the Covid situation in Germany look like this autumn?