Germany’s partial lockdown extended until January 10th

Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that the coronavirus shutdown in Germany will be extended yet again until January 10th.

Germany's partial lockdown extended until January 10th
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

The shutdown, which has seen the closure of restaurants, hotels, cultural and leisure facilities, was initially set to be in place until at least December 20th, although Merkel had said it would likely be extended until January.

However, at a five-hour meeting on Wednesday Chancellor Merkel and the 16 German state leaders decided to formally extend it further – until January 10th.

“If the infection situation continues to develop as in the last days, we will meet again on January 4th and the states are extending the directive (for a shutdown) to January 10th,” Merkel said in Berlin following the meeting.

“In general, things will remain as they are now, with the exception, of course, of the Christmas arrangements, which were made especially for this purpose,” said Merkel, pointing to the loosened rules over the festive season to allow for more people to meet.

The Chancellor said the aim was to reduce the seven-day incidence (new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days) to less than 50.

“We are a long way from achieving this,” said Merkel.

Berlin mayor Michael Müller said there had been positive signs but Germany was recording on average 170 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in seven days.

The Chancellor also said the increasing numbers of Covid-19 deaths in Germany shows “the responsibility we have”.

Health authorities in Germany reported 487 coronavirus-related deaths to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within 24 hours on Wednesday – the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic. It brings the total number of deaths registered in Germany to 17,123.

READ ALSO: 'Avoid travel and ventilate rooms': Eight rules Germany wants you to follow to bring Covid-19 numbers down

A total of 17,270 new Covid-19 infections were reported within 24 hours. This is about 1,400 fewer than the previous week, when 18,633 new cases were reported on November 25th.

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder stressed that the shutdown extension had been a “clear” and “uniform” decision by the Chancellor and state leaders.

However, as agreed previously, states that manage to get their numbers down are allowed to loosen restrictions. Meanwhile, in areas where the situation is worsening, authorities have to tighten coronavirus rules.

Shutdown in Germany since November 2nd

Germany ordered the closure of restaurants, cafes, bars (except for takeaway food and drink) as well as hotels, cultural and leisure facilities in November.

Schools and shops have been allowed to remain open but with restrictions.

Last Wednesday November 25th Merkel and Germany's 16 states announced the shutdown was being extended until at least December 20th, possibly early January.

They also introduced tighter contact restrictions and rules, such as obligatory masks in more places.

The contact restrictions are to be eased over the festive season to allow for low-key Christmas and New Year celebrations.

On January 4th a meeting will be held to examine the situation and decide the next steps for Germany, Merkel said.

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Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

Health ministers across Germany's 16 states are debating the government's new Covid plan - and politicians in Bavaria say they want more clarity.

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

On Tuesday, federal and state health ministers planned to discuss the Covid protection proposals for autumn and winter presented last week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP).

However, some states and politicians are not satisfied with the plans. 

Under the proposals, masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

States will also have the power to take tougher Covid measures if the situation calls for it, such as mandatory masks indoors, but lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The draft law states that there can be exceptions from wearing masks in indoor spaces, such as restaurants, for recently Covid-vaccinated or recovered people. 

But Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told DPA that these planned exemptions were not justified because vaccinated and recovered people can still transmit infections. “There are clear gaps in the current draft law,” said the CSU politician.

Dominik Spitzer, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament, also questioned this exception, saying the rules “simply made no sense”.

“With the current virus variant, that would be impossible to convey, since even vaccinated people can continue to carry the virus,” the FDP politician told Bavarian broadcaster BR24. 

The coalition government’s graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, is set to be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

The powers for the states are a first step, “but they do not go far enough for us”, Holetschek added, while calling for some points to be tightened up. “We need strong guidelines for autumn and winter.”

Holetschek said the government needed to tighten up the criteria with which states can adopt and enforce more effective measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of Covid rules?

Meanwhile, CDU health politician Erwin Rüddel said Germany was on the “wrong track” and the country should find “a completely different approach” to Covid policy than it has so far.

He accused the coalition government of being in “panic mode” and said he doubted the Bundestag would pass the proposals.

“I believe, there will be significant changes (to the draft)”, he said.

But the chairperson of the doctors’ association Marburger Bund, Susanne Johna, backed the plans.

“The proposal for the new Infection Protection Act gives the states sufficient possibilities to react adequately to the infection situation,” Johna told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

“The states can take regionally adapted measures to protect people if the need arises. I can’t understand why this concept is being called into question right away.”