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Job fears grow in Germany as coronavirus closes shops again

New restrictions in Germany that will shutter most shops to curb the second coronavirus wave have raised fears of thousands of job losses, industry representatives said Tuesday.

Job fears grow in Germany as coronavirus closes shops again
A shop worker in Bamberg urges people to shop online. Photo: DPA

Without additional government support, “up to 50,000 shops with 250,000 employees might no longer have a future,” the German Retail Association (HDE) said in a statement.

The industry can “no longer survive without tailor-made financial assistance”, the HDE added.

To curb a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections, Germany will close non-essential shops from Wednesday until at least January 10th, in addition to measures already in place since November that have closed bars, restaurants, leisure centres and cultural sites.

READ ALSO: Covid-19 worse than ever in Germany 'due to carelessness'

 

To help the affected businesses, the German government is committing €11.2 billion ($13.6 billion) a month in aid.

That includes raising the ceiling for direct aid to compensate for fixed costs to shuttered firms from €200,000 to €500,000.

With the latest restrictions falling in the middle of the year's busiest shopping season, Berliners rushed to queue up outside stores for Christmas gifts on Tuesday, AFP reporters saw.

“The usually strong sales period towards the end of the year will be a fiasco for many traders,” HDE boss Stefan Genth said.

“In the fashion trade in particular, many companies are on the verge of bankruptcy,” Genth added.

EXPLAINED: These are Germany's tough new lockdown measures

Even with the promised government support, the number of unemployed could rise by between 50,000 and 100,000 as a result of the renewed shutdowns, according to the influential IFW economic institute.

The IFW expects Germany's economy to shrink by 0.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 and by 1.4 percent in the first three months of 2021, plunging Europe's economic powerhouse into a double-dip recession, despite a strong
recovery over the summer.

The government however still anticipates that the economy will expand slightly between October and December by 0.4 percent.

“I'm relatively sure we will not have a recession like in the spring,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Monday.

The government expects German output to contract by 5.5 percent in 2020, before seeing a rebound of 4.4 percent in 2021 and 2.5 percent in 2022.

READ ALSO: Germany's tougher Christmas lockdown rules are the right move – but should they have come sooner?

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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