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



“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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Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

People in Germany have to isolate at home for at least five days if they test positive for Covid. But four states want to see a change to this rule.

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

In a joint letter, the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein called on Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to drop the isolation requirement for people who get a Covid infection in Germany. 

Baden-Württemberg health minister Manne Lucha, of the Greens, said there should be a move towards people taking personal responsibility rather than the state ordering an isolation period, reported the Tagesschau. 

“We should gradually get into the mode of treating a corona infection like any other infectious disease where the rule is: if you are sick, stay at home,” said the Green politician.

The rules on isolation differ slightly from state to state in Germany, but the general requirement is that people who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

In some states, and for hospital and care workers, a negative test is required to end the isolation period early.

Several politicians – as well as Andreas Gassen, chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, have previously spoken out in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

READ ALSO: Should Germany get rid of Covid mandatory isolation?

The four German states called on Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, to change the rules by October 10th.

In their letter, they refer to Austria, where the isolation obligation has been replaced by so-called “traffic restrictions” since August 1st.

Under these rules, people who get Covid-19 have to wear an FFP2 mask for 10 days in most places, and they are not allowed to visit nursing homes and clinics. They can, however, go to their workplace.

“The end of mandatory isolation has not led to any relevant increase in reported cases in Austria,” the four German health ministers said in their letter.

They argued that much of the population in Germany is immunised, either through vaccination or infection.

However, Lauterbach has so far rejected calls to get rid of the isolation requirement. He said that due to Covid cases rising, he didn’t want to “add fuel to the fire” and increase the risk of infections occurring in companies or at gatherings.

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU), said he was worried about lots of people having to take time off work to isolate at the same time, which could put pressure on critical infrastructure. 

Schleswig-Holstein’s health minister Kerstin von der Decken (CDU), said the adjustment of the isolation rules would be “a step on the way back to normality.”