Scientists plead for ‘hard lockdown’ in Germany as fears grow over Covid-19 spike at Christmas

Experts are urging German politicians to put the country on lockdown 'until at least January 10th' due to the worsening situation.

Scientists plead for 'hard lockdown' in Germany as fears grow over Covid-19 spike at Christmas
A man walking past a closed shop in Cologne on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Members of Germany's National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, which has been advising leaders on how to deal with the crisis, have published an urgent appeal to politicians in view of the alarming situation in the Bundesrepublik.

The group of researchers at Leopoldina want to “quickly and drastically reduce the excessive number of new infections through a hard lockdown”, they said in their statement Spiegel reported on Tuesday.

Two-stage tough lockdown plan

In a two-stage procedure, they said that children should not have to go to school from December 14th, and residents should be “strongly” encouraged to work from home. All group activities in the field of sport and culture should also be “discontinued”.

In the second stage from Christmas onwards, “public life in Germany should be largely suspended until at least January 10th 2021”, i.e. a “tightened lockdown”.

This includes all shops closing except those for essential needs, such as supermarkets and pharmacies.

School Christmas holidays should be extended until January 10th. And holiday trips and large gatherings during the whole festive period would have to be completely avoided.

The statement was signed by 28 scientists, including the Charité virologist Christian Drosten and his Frankfurt colleague Sandra Ciesek, the educational researcher Ute Frevert and the health psychologist Jutta Mata from the University of Mannheim.

The head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler also signed the plea – this is significant as he has previously held back from taking public stances because he is head of a federal authority.

The head of the ifo Institute, Clemens Fuest, together with Regina Riphahn from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, brought economic expertise to the discussion.

READ ALSO: Merkel says Germany 'won't get through winter' with current Covid-19 measures

Ban on visiting family and friends at Christmas

At the last meeting, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state leaders agreed to relax contact rules over Christmas and New Year.

Up to 10 people from any number of households can meet from December 23rd until January 1st, although there are some differences between states such as Berlin only allowing five people to meet.

However, the National Academy urgently warns against easing rules. Instead, the Christmas period should be used to drastically reduce the number of cases.

Without specifying the total number of participants that could be permitted at a celebration, Leopoldina says that “contacts should only take place in a very close circle of family or friends, limited to a few people” – followed by this rule: these contacts should remain “unchanged over the entire period”.

This means that travel and visiting different relatives and friends over the holidays would not be allowed, if these plans were to be adopted.

ANALYSIS: Just how effective has Germany's partial lockdown been?

50,000 new infections daily

The experts are concerned that over the Christmas period, the already high infection rates will explode due to the festive season.

In the worst case scenario, they expect 50,000 new infections daily from the end of January if the relaxation planned by politicians for Christmas and New Year's Eve and the current level of contact remains.

“The Christmas period and the turn of the year, with their traditionally intensified and close social contacts, hold great risks for a further deterioration of the infection situation,” warn the Leopoldina researchers.

READ ALSO: Will coronavirus hotspots in Germany face stricter measures at Christmas?

Member comments

  1. It helped us in the first lockdown. Let’s do it again….

    – no fireworks this year (keep the front liners free of unnecessary call outs and emergencies)
    – shut schools for longer (as suggested)
    – close hairdressers and non-essential retailers
    – limit any/all gatherings to no more than 6-8 people (indoors and outdoors)

    It is harsh….but we did it before and we’re on the right track.

    Stay well everyone and wishing those a Merry Christmas, and to all a safe festive season x

  2. Lockdown has proven to be ineffective.

    The old saying goes “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” heh.. now what should we call this action coming out of the supposed “scientists”.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.