German Health Minister calls on residents to avoid holiday travel amid push for stricter shutdown

German Health Minister calls on residents to avoid holiday travel amid push for stricter shutdown
Spahn in the Bundestag on Tuesday. Photo: DPA
German Health Minister Jens Spahn called for people in Germany to avoid travel at Christmas time, as other politicians pleaded for a strict post-holiday shutdown.

“For the first time since I can remember, I won’t be spending the holidays with my parents and siblings” said Spahn from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Wednesday.

“That is a great pity. But it will help keep the virus at bay.”

He spoke out against the idea that some families could meet in German states which have set more generous rules for holiday gatherings.

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“Within families, Covid-19 can quickly turn dangerous,” he said. 

Currently only five people from two households are allowed to meet until January 10th, although these rules are set to be loosened between December 23rd and January 1st. Depending on the state, up to 10 people will be allowed to meet, with children under 14 exempt from the rule.

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

Some states, such as Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, have narrowed their window of exception to December 24th until December 26th, whereas others such as Berlin have restricted the number of people who can gather together to five.

Some German states, including Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse, are also allowing people to stay at hotels for the purpose of visiting family over the holidays. Otherwise such visits are currently banned for private purposes.

Push for stricter shutdown after holidays.

North Rhine-Westphalia's Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) also made an appeal for using the quieter time after Christmas to enforce a stricter lockdown around Germany. 

“After Christmas, we need a real year-end lockdown in order to regain more normality for 2021,” he told DPA.

“From Christmas until the end of the holidays, the country can most likely be shutdown completely and thus effectively stop the spread of the pandemic”, stressed Laschet.

Spahn also said that the days after Christmas would be ideal to enforce a more stringent lockdown.

“I could hardly think of a better time of the year to reduce contacts,” he told told Bild.

‘It’s absolutely not necessary to shop’

Shoppers queuing for a cosmetics store in Dresden on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

The German Association of Cities also said that the period following Christmas would be a good time to enforce stricter rules, with not as many people having the need to leave their homes.

Schools and Kitas are closed, many companies are shut down, and many people are on holiday, meaning “it’s absolutely not necessary to shop following Christmas,” said association leader Helmut Dedy to the Saarbrücker Zeitung.

Leopolina, Germany’s Academy for Sciences, on Tuesday called on school holidays to begin starting on December 14th, and for shops to close from December 24th until at least January 10th.

The Leopolina paper should serve as a “last and serious” warning to Germans, said virologist Christian Drosten in his “Coronavirus Update” NDR podcast. He added that there’s a great probability that the time around the holidays will lead to a spike in cases. 

READ ALSO: Scientists plead for 'hard lockdown' in Germany as fears grow over Covid-19 spike at Christmas

If no new regulations are introduced now, there is a threat of a lockdown “at the end of January and throughout February” with massive consequences for the economy, he said. 

It’s likely that Germany’s 16 state leaders will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel at the beginning of next week to discuss stricter measures to be enforced throughout Germany.

On Wednesday morning, Merkel made an emotional plea for tougher restrictions to bring down coronavirus infections, as the German death toll reached a grim daily record of nearly 600 people.

READ ALSO: Merkel makes emotional plea for tougher curbs as Covid-19 deaths in Germany break record


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