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Merkel pushes for tougher contact restrictions and school rules in coronavirus fight

Chancellor Angela Merkel will on Monday push for tougher curbs including masks in all schools, smaller class sizes and drastic limits on contacts to bring down coronavirus infections in Germany.

Merkel pushes for tougher contact restrictions and school rules in coronavirus fight
Chancellor Angela Merkel on November 2nd. Photo: DPA

Outside work or school, contact between people should also be “restricted to those from another fixed household,” according to a proposal by Merkel's office and which would be put to regional leaders of Germany's 16 states later Monday.

Europe's biggest economy began a new round of shutdowns in November, closing restaurants, cultural venues and leisure facilities to curb transmission of Covid-19.

But while new cases are plateauing, the daily numbers are still too high for officials to determine the infection chain and thereby break the transmission.

During talks to take stock of the situation, Merkel will seek to get state premiers to sign up to drastically limiting contacts.

All private parties should be cancelled until Christmas, the document proposes.

READ ALSO: What's closed and what stays open across Germany's states during the shutdown?

Children and youths should pick just one specific friend to meet up with outside school hours.

To ensure that schools are kept open as long as possible, the chancellery has also suggested that classes “without exceptions be broken up into fixed groups, where the size of groups in classrooms are halved compared to normal operations”.

An alternative is to use larger rooms for classes, according to the draft.

The document also urges anyone with signs of a cold, including a cough or runny nose, to self-isolate for five to seven days until they are free of symptoms again.

READ ALSO: Germany should expect 'five more months of strict coronavirus measures, warns minister

Germany has fared relatively well in the first wave of the pandemic, but numbers have dramatically shot up in the autumn.

On Monday, it reported 10,824 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing total infections to date to 801,327. Some 12,547 people have died from the virus.
  

Member comments

  1. Has anyone in government observed a children’s playground??? If tracing isn’t possible, I’m going to suggest children play a major role in that — schools, playgrounds, etc. Why are we punishing single adults by removing restaurants with no transmission and clubs that keep standards but keeping work, and letting kids run crazy in hoards in play areas…? Or have you seen the gathering outside cafes and pickup food places?? There’s more hygiene protocol followed of you let them be open.

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COVID-19

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. 

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