Germany should expect ‘five more months’ of strict coronavirus measures, minister warns

Germany may see four to five more months of coronavirus restrictions, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Sunday, dashing hopes of a quick end to a partial lockdown introduced two weeks ago.

Germany should expect 'five more months' of strict coronavirus measures, minister warns
A statue decorated with a protective mask in a closed store window in Weimar, Germany, on November 14, 2020. Christof STACHE / AFP

“The infection numbers are still far too high — much higher even than a fortnight ago,” Altmaier told the Bild an Sonntag newspaper ahead of a government meeting on Monday to assess the progress of the restrictions.

Germany went into partial lockdown in early November, closing bars, restaurants, gyms and other recreational facilities but keeping schools and shops open.

The number of new infections per day has since slowed but remains high, with a record of more than 23,000 reported on Friday.

“We will have to live with considerable precautions and restrictions for at least the next four to five months,” Altmaier said.

“Many people are now understandably hoping for a loosening (of restrictions), that restaurants or cinemas will reopen. But in view of the still far too high infection rates, we have little room for manoeuvre.”

The restrictions agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany's 16 states are provisionally in place until the end of November.

But the leaders will meet again on Monday to decide whether to extend them or to introduce sharper restrictions.

READ MORE: Is Germany set to tighten shutdown measures?

With more than 300,000 schoolchildren in quarantine, calls have been growing for schools to shut or at least move more of their lessons online.

“We are entering a situation where school operation is becoming a high risk for children, teachers, parents and grandparents,” MP and epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach said in an interview with the Funke media group.

Several demonstrations against the restrictions were held on Saturday across Germany, including one in Frankfurt where water cannons were used against counter-demonstrators.

A protester reacts as police use water cannons to disperse a demonstration against coronavirus restrictions on November 14, 2020, in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany. Yann Schreiber / AFP

Germany has registered a total of 790,503 coronavirus cases and 12,485 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre.

The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has soared from just over 360 in early October to more than 3,300 currently.

Neighbouring Austria, which also imposed a partial lockdown two weeks ago, announced on Saturday that schools and non-essential shops will close from Tuesday.


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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.”