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CHRISTMAS

What exactly are Germany’s Christmas celebration rules?

How are you allowed to celebrate Christmas in Germany under tight meeting rules? Here's what you should know.

What exactly are Germany's Christmas celebration rules?
A Christmas tree Bremen's Marktplatz on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

What are the contact restrictions right now?

Until at least January 10th 2021, private meetings indoors and outdoors are only allowed with members of your own household and one other household, with a maximum of five people over the age of 14; younger children are exempt from the rule.

What's changing at Christmas?

For the period from December 24th to 26th, the government and states have agreed to allow a slight relaxation of this rule.

“Even in this special year, it should be possible for the Christmas days to be celebrated together. However, in view of the high incidence of infection, this will only be possible on a much smaller scale than usual,” said the German government and 16 states in a final decision paper.

READ ALSO: These are Germany's tough new lockdown measures

Here's what is allowed:

1. Your household can invite or gather with four people over the age of 14 during this time

2. Children under the age of 14 are not counted in the total number of people.

3. Only meetings within the closest family circle are allowed. However, because this is difficult to define formally, the politicians have specifically named various groups of people. They mention “spouses, partners and partners in a non-marital partnership as well as relatives in a straight line, siblings, siblings' children and their respective household members”.

4. The policy appeals to everyone to take a “protection week” before meetings. That means that people should cut down social contact as much as possible for five to seven days before celebrating with people.

Examples:

– So an older couple can celebrate with two adult children, their partners and all grandchildren under 14 (household plus four).

– Note the rule only extends to relatives in a “straight line”. An elderly couple with one adult child would therefore not be allowed to invite uncles and aunts in addition to their family (household plus two), even if the number of four adult guests is not reached.

– If the couple has three adult children with their own family (household plus six), one of the adult children would have to celebrate elsewhere.

 – The situation is different if one of the three children is older but still lives at home. Then it counts as part of the parents' household (household plus four).

READ ALSO: Germany to close non-essential shops and schools to stem Covid-19 surge

What happens if you are not celebrating with family?

Then the current rule applies: no more than two households in total can meet with a maximum of five people. Children under 14 are exempt from the rule.

Was this one of the topics thoroughly discussed?

Most likely. The examples show how difficult it was for Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders to find a solution for Christmas.

Not all sides are happy with the wording announced either. According to a transcript from the meeting participants, the point “does not make the intention sufficiently clear”, reported Spiegel.

Previously, the government and states were to allow a maximum of 10 people to meet from any number of households between December 23rd and 31st, but this does not apply anymore.

The paper also contains an important restriction: the Christmas rule only applies “depending on the respective infection situation” in the state.

Should the situation escalate further, individual state governments can switch to stricter contact restrictions during the holidays.

Can you travel to visit people?

Travel is not banned, but a further appeal is being made to the public to refrain from non-essential domestic and international travel. The quarantine rule for arrivals from foreign risk areas remains in place.

What about state differences?

As we said earlier, states can choose to enforce different rules depending on the Covid-19 situation.

Keep an eye on your local government decisions for any state differences.

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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