German states call for less strict coronavirus measures

The federal government and Germany’s 16 individual states are in disagreement about how strict new coronavirus restrictions should be - and whether some should be made voluntary.

German states call for less strict coronavirus measures
Merkel met with 16 state premieres at a video conference on Monday. Photo: DPA

During a video conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) on Monday, state premiers proposed that new federally-proposed coronavirus rules be made either less strict or voluntary.

The meeting came two weeks into Germany's lockdown light, which has seen restaurants, fitness centres and cultural institutions largely close, while most schools stay open.

In a draft resolution submitted to dpa, key proposals of the original draft are no longer included – or are formulated only as an appeal. 

READ ALSO: What are Germany's planned new coronavirus restrictions?

For example, children and young people are no longer called on to only meet with the same friend in their free time.

Furthermore, people in Germany are “appealed” to, rather than required to, refrain from private parties altogether.

Mandatory masks at schools are also not included in the new resolution – which only mentions that everything possible should be done to keep schools open.

The negotiations also dealt with the question of whether the more extensive contact restrictions should be voluntary or made mandatory. 

According to dpa, NRW Minister President Armin Laschet (CDU) said that contact restrictions – or public meetings with no more than 10 people from two households – could be very helpful in reducing the number of infections.

“We must broadcast together: The situation is serious”, Laschet said during the meeting.

A week later on November 23rd, German states are set discuss whether the rules for Germany’s partial lockdown will be extended or even tightened in December.

On Monday November 16th,10,824 new cases of infection were recorded within one day. This is a significant decrease from the previous Monday when 13,363 cases were reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Keep in mind that the number of cases recorded is usually lower on Mondays, partly because less testing takes place at the weekend. There was a peak on Friday when 23,542 Covid-19 cases were reported.

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.