SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19

Merkel in crisis talks for tougher shutdown in Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold crisis talks on Sunday with regional leaders of Germany's 16 states to agree tougher curbs including the closure of shops ahead of Christmas, as coronavirus infections surge unabated.

Merkel in crisis talks for tougher shutdown in Germany
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on 25 November 2020. Photo: Odd ANDERSEN / POOL / AFP

The drastic measures hitting shops other than those selling essential goods would be imposed from Wednesday until at least January 10, according to a draft by Merkel's office seen by AFP.

Schools could also be shuttered, sending pupils into homeschooling, while companies are requested to allow employees to work from home during the period.

Bavaria state premier Markus Soeder, who has been pushing for tougher measures, voiced support for the measures.

“The numbers are worse than ever, we mustn't allow ourselves to get bogged down by individual measures,” he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Along with Merkel, Soeder has for weeks been seeking tougher restrictions, warning that the current round of shutdowns hitting theatres, cinemas, gyms and indoor dining was not far-reaching enough.

But the implementation of the restrictions are in the hands of individual states, and some regions where infection levels were lower had been resistant to impose tough curbs.

The mood however tipped over in the last week after Germany recorded new daily death tolls reaching close to 600.

The country's disease control agency chief Lothar Wieler warned on Thursday that the infections trend had taken a worrying turn.

“The rise in numbers is worrying,” said Robert Koch Institute president Wieler, warning that after plateauing for a few weeks, “the course of infections could tip over again” into exponential growth.

READ ALSO: Fact check: Just how bad is the current coronavirus situation in Germany?

'Last Christmas?'

Germany has imposed far less stringent shutdown rules than other major European nations after coming through the first wave of the pandemic relatively unscathed.

But Europe's biggest economy has been severely hit by a second wave with daily new infections more than three times that of the peak in the spring.

Germany recorded another 20,200 new Covid cases over the past 24 hours, reaching a total of 1,320,716 cases, according to RKI data published on Sunday.

Another 321 patients died from the disease from a day earlier, bringing the total death toll to 21,787.

In a hard-hitting speech before the Bundestag on Wednesday, Merkel issued a stark warning to Germans ahead of the Christmas holiday season when families are expected to gather.

“If we have too many contacts before Christmas and it ends up being the last Christmas with the grandparents, then we'd really have failed,” she said.

Merkel's government has repeatedly said that numbers need to be brought down to 50 per 100,000 people but the rate is currently 169.1 per 100,000.

Ahead of the talks, Germany's hardest hit states have already ordered new measures.

Saxony state, where in some areas incidence rates have hit 500 per 100,000, will keep shops and schools shut from Monday. A curfew will also kick in from 10pm to 6am.

READ ALSO:  These maps will help you understand the current state of the pandemic in Germany

Member comments

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

COVID-19 RULES

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.”

SHOW COMMENTS