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Merkel says Covid-19 restrictions ‘are among most difficult decisions’ in her career

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says trying to control the spread of Covid-19 in Germany has been one of the toughest times of her career.

Merkel says Covid-19 restrictions 'are among most difficult decisions' in her career
Angela Merkel on November 9th. Photo: DPA

Speaking at the Economic Summit in Berlin on Tuesday, Merkel showed understanding for the heavy strain that residents in Germany are under during the crisis, reported Spiegel.

Merkel said she was aware that the contact restrictions in particular were a “burden on democracy”. But they are unavoidable, she stressed.

“These decisions are among the most difficult of my term in office,” said Merkel.

Nevertheless, Merkel called for more effort from people in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. “At the moment the situation remains serious, I would even say very serious,” she said.

On Monday state leaders put a brake on the federal government's draft proposals to introduce new measures to control the spread of coronavirus.

Merkel had hoped to push through new measures, such as tougher contact restrictions and halving class sizes in schools.

READ ALSO:

The Chancellor said she would have preferred to implement these stricter lockdown measures. Instead, the government and states agreed to put plans on hold and urgently recommended that people cut down on contacts. The discussion will be resumed next week.

“Every day counts in the fight against coronavirus,” said Merkel. “If we waited until the intensive care beds were fully occupied, it would be too late.”

Merkel said infection numbers weren't growing exponentially anymore, “but are still far too high. So we have to reduce contacts, reduce contacts, reduce contacts.

“I do regret that things sometimes move a little too slowly.”

There were around 14,400 new cases reported in Germany within 24 hours on Tuesday, bringing the total amount of cases to 815,746.

The death toll rose by 267 within 24 hours. More than 12,800 people have died due to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The Chancellor said 30 to 40 percent of the population belong to a risk group, so protecting people has to be taken seriously.

The fight against the pandemic is not a purely medical issue, but also an ethical, economic and social one, she said.

Merkel predicts 'strong growth spurt' for 2021

The Economic Summit will discuss whether Germany can succeed in finding a way out of the coronavirus crisis in 2021.

Despite her serious address, Merkel was also optimistic about a vaccine.

READ MORE: How Germany is preparing for the coronavirus vaccination

As far as the economy is concerned, the Chancellor believes there will be recovery next year.

“We expect a strong growth spurt in 2021, provided we get the pandemic under control,” she said.

The government will continue to provide financial support to large and small companies. “We are prepared to accept extraordinary new debt,” she said.

Merkel urged firms to hold out. The winter will be a “tough dry spell for some industries”, she said, especially with regard to the catering and entertainment sector.

The path out of the crisis would be difficult, but could be successful, she said. In the end, it's important to weigh up all coronavirus restrictions against economic and social issues.

It's not a question of deciding between health or economy and culture, but of thinking about all sectors together.

“These measures serve everyone,” said Merkel: “A well-controlled pandemic is best for the economy.”

Member comments

  1. What, even more difficult than dealing with the USA after Obama’s NSA was eavesdropping on german citizens & the Chancellor’s own mobile telephone? Or was that acceptable because Obama was a smooth talking snake-oil salesman!

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COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules in place across German states

Many Covid restrictions have been dropped in Germany, but some rules remain in place. And as infections increase again, it's important to be aware of what you should do if you get Covid.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules in place across German states

Germany has relaxed or changed many Covid restrictions in recent months. However, with Covid infections rocketing again, people are reminding themselves of what rules remain in place, and what they have to do if they get a positive test.

Here’s a quick roundup of what you should know. 

Face masks

Covid masks have to be worn when travelling on public transport, including planes departing to and from Germany. 

They also have to be worn in places where there are more vulnerable people, such as care homes, hospitals and doctor offices. 

Masks are not mandatory anymore in shops (including supermarkets) and restaurants, but individual businesses can enforce the rule so watch out for signs on the door. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

FFP2 masks have become the standard in Germany, but in some cases other medical masks are sufficient.

There are no longer any entry rules to public venues such as the 3G or 2G rule, meaning that people had to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. 

However, they could return in autumn if the infection protection laws are adapted, and if the Covid situation gets worse.

Mandatory isolation 

The rules on isolation differ from state to state, but there is one general requirement: those 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.

If you get a positive result at home, you should go to a test centre and undergo a rapid antigen test. If it is positive, the quarantine obligation kicks in. If it is negative, you have to get a PCR test.

If you have Covid symptoms, you should contact your doctor, local health authorities or the non-emergency medical on-call service on 116 117. They can advise or whether you should get a PCR test. 

Across German states, the isolation period lasts 10 days, but – as we mentioned above – there are differences on how it can end earlier. 

In Berlin, for instance, it can be shortened from the fifth day with a negative test if you have been symptom free for 48 hours. If this isn’t the case, the isolation is extended until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours and tested negative. But you can leave without a negative test after 10 days. 

A positive Covid test.

A positive Covid test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Anyone who tests positive for Covid using a rapid test at a testing centre can have a free PCR test to confirm whether they have Covid-19. If the PCR test is negative, there is no obligation to go into quarantine.

In Bavaria, the isolation period is five days after the first positive test. For isolation to end on day five you must be symptom free for at least 48 hours. Otherwise, isolation is extended for 48 hours at a time until the maximum of 10 days. 

A test-to-release is not needed to end the isolation, unless the person works in a medical setting. 

READ ALSO: Germany sets out new Covid isolation rules

After isolation, Bavaria recommends that you wear an FFP2 mask in public places indoors and reduce contact for an extra five days. 

The state of Hesse has a similar system to Bavaria where a test is not needed to end the isolation early (unless the person works in a medical setting).

In North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg, residents can end their Covid isolation on the fifth day if they get a negative test (carried out at a testing centre). Otherwise the isolation period continues until the 10th day, or until they get a negative test.

Close contacts of people infected with Covid (including household contacts) no longer have to quarantine in Germany, but they are advised to get tested regularly and monitor for symptoms, as well as reduce contacts for five days. 

As ever, check with your local authority for the detailed rules.

Travel

Germany recently provisionally dropped almost all of its Covid travel restrictions, making it much easier to enter the country. 

The changes mean that entry into Germany is now allowed for all travel purposes, including tourism. The move makes travel easier – and cheaper – for people coming from non-EU countries, particularly families who may have needed multiple Covid tests for children. 

People also no longer have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test against Covid before coming to Germany – the so-called 3G rule. 

However, if a country is classed as a ‘virus variant’ region, tougher rules are brought in. 

It is likely that travel rules could be reinstated again after summer or if the Covid situation gets worse so keep an eye on any developments. 

READ ALSO: Germany drops Covid entry restrictions for non-EU travellers

Vaccine mandate

The mandate making Covid vaccinations compulsory for medical staff remains in place. A vaccine mandate that would have affected more of the population in Germany was rejected by the Bundestag in a vote in April

READ ALSO: Germany’s top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health care workers

Workplaces

Masks are no longer mandatory in workplaces, unless it is in a setting where more risks groups are, such as hospitals or care homes. 

The government no longer requires people to work from home, but employers and employees can reach their own ‘home office’ arrangement.

Tests are also no longer mandatory, but workplaces can offer their employees regular tests. 

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