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LIVING IN GERMANY

Merkel announces new German shutdown for month of November

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday evening that restaurants, hotels and the cultural sector would be completely closed for the entire month of November.

Merkel announces new German shutdown for month of November

For the latest on Germany's new measures you can click on the link below which includes details of Chancellor Angela Merkel's press conference

 

NEW: Germany to close bars and restaurants as Merkel unveils new round of Covid-19 shutdowns

 

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“We need to act and we need to act now,” the Chancellor said at a press conference on Wednesday evening that was also attended by Berlin mayor Michael Müller and Bavarian leader Markus Söder.

The new rules will come into force on Monday November 2nd.

“Our most important instrument against the virus is tracing infections,” said the Chancellor. But she added that the health agencies had reached their limits and were no longer able to trace cases. “For this reason we need to all have a national effort during the month of November.”

Restaurants, bars, theatres and concert halls will all be closed for the entire month. 

Merkel also promised an “extraordinary financial package” to help the gastronomy and hotel industry which will be forced to close for four weeks.

Berlin's mayor Müller said that schools and Kitas will stay open throughout the new shutdown.

According to an unconfirmed report in der Spiegel, The package of restrictions will include reducing contact outside the home to two households and a maximum of 10 people.

As The Local has been reporting, the government has proposed a 'lockdown light' for most of November in a bid to 'save Christmas'. It would result in bars, cafes and restaurants closing as well as leisure facilities.

But schools and shops would stay open.

READ MORE HERE: Germany's lockdown proposal to save Christmas: What you need to know

According to insiders, Merkel calculated that if there was no reduction in social contacts by the population, 28,000 infections per day would be reached within a week – double the current figure.

Drosten and Söder for stronger measures

Merkel will no doubt face differing opinions from state leaders in the meeting. Some states, such as those in the east, have not faced high coronavirus rates, so may be against blanket nationwide measures.

North Rhine-Westphalia's state premier Armin Laschet of the Christian Democrats had previously spoken of November as the “decisive month” in view of the rising number of new infections.

And before the conference, Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder (CDU) pleaded for tougher corona measures: “Better to do it now and do it right than to do it late and half-hearted”, said Söder.

Virologist Christian Drosten also argued for a temporary lockdown. “If the burden becomes too great, you have to take a break,” said the Charité-scientist on this podcast on Tuesday evening.

At the moment the incidence in Germany is still comparatively low. “If we were to step on the brakes now, it would have a lasting effect,” Drosten said, buying the country time.

In the scientist's view, this would take about three weeks – a little more than a quarantine period. “The incidence is then considerably lowered and is then also lowered for a longer period under certain circumstances,” he said.

Measures 'must not cause new damage'

But virologists Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit and Hendrik Streeck, together with the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), put forward a paper on Wednesday questioning if a lockdown was really needed.

“We are already experiencing a failure to provide other urgent medical treatment, serious side effects in children and young people due to social deprivation and breaks in educational and vocational training courses, the decline of entire economic sectors, many cultural institutions and increasing social imbalance as a result,” the authors write in the paper.

The principle must be to choose the measures to contain the pandemic “in such a way that we effectively reduce severe events without causing new damage”, they said.

Almost 15,000 new infections in Germany

On Wednesday morning, health authorities reported 14,964 new corona infections within one day – a record since the beginning of the pandemic. A week ago the number was 7,595. However, the current figures are not fully comparable with those from spring, as more tests are now being carried out and therefore more infections are being detected.

Still, experts have raised fears over the speed at which infection numbers are growing and it is becoming difficult to contact trace.

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COVID-19 RULES

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.”

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