Bavaria set to tighten rules on private gatherings

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder wants to implement the plan drawn up by federal and state governments – but also tighten some rules.

Bavaria set to tighten rules on private gatherings
Bavarian premier Markus Söder in Munich on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Speaking on Thursday after a cabinet meeting, Söder said contact restrictions would apply in private as well as in the public sphere – unlike what was agreed at the meeting between Angela Merkel and state leaders.

The government and states decided that only members of your own household and one other household – with a maximum of 10 people in total – will be allowed to meet in public during the shutdown in November.

They further stated that “groups of people celebrating in public places, in apartments as well as private areas are unacceptable in view of the serious situation in our country” – but did not specify a rule.

However, Söder said Bavaria planned to take a clearer line on socialising privately. In the southern state from November 2nd until the end of the month a maximum of two households can meet, with no more than 10 people, in both public and private settings.

He said authorities would not be checking up on this, but they would react if they receive reports. There will be “nobody ringing the doorbell” to check how many people are in a flat, said Söder, but if “citizens complain, they will react accordingly”.

There will be no exit restrictions as currently in place in the districts of Berchtesgadener Land and Rottal-Inn, he said. In these districts people are not allowed to leave their homes unless for essential reasons such as exercise or work.

However, the special rules for districts and towns with high infection rates will remain in force unchanged – for example, the night-time ban on selling alcohol and drinking in public in parts of Munich and other places.

Bavaria may declare 'disaster'

Söder emphasised that all events are banned in Bavaria in November except demonstrations and church services, which are protected by the constitution.

He also said that the state may consider declaring a 'disaster' situation in the coming days.

Bavaria declared a disaster (Katastrophenfall) on March 16th at the start of the pandemic to allow the state's authorities to push through new restrictions faster, including possibly asking the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) for assistance.

In the past disaster situations have been declared in certain districts in cases of extreme flooding or snowfall.

Söder said this may become necessary in the next few days to respond to the “dramatic developments”.

The occupancy rate of intensive care beds had doubled in the last nine days, and some areas were facing capacity shortages. By proclaiming the disaster, the state can better coordinate the distribution of intensive care patients, said Söder.

“We are in a very, very serious situation,” he said.

In Bavaria, 3,057 new infections were reported on Thursday by the State Office for Health and Food Safety.

“This is a new record number,” said Söder. The incidence, i.e. the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a region in seven days, is 107 throughout the state.

This puts Bavaria in midfield nationwide, but the figure is “simply too high”. A total of 13 municipalities in Bavaria were already above an incidence of 50, some even above 200, he said.

READ ALSO: How can Germany control Covid-19's spread?

Although the partial lockdown was agreed by Merkel and the regional leaders, it has to be implemented by each individual state and that may result in some differences.

Söder intends to present the measures adopted by the cabinet to parliament on Friday. Parliament (Landtag) cannot decide directly on the coronavirus regulations, which is reserved for the state governments under the Federal Infection Control Act.

However, in emergency motions the parliament can ask the government to change something in the cabinet decision, provided the majority agrees.

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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