“I firmly believe that we will have to continue to live with restrictions,” Berlin's mayor Michael Müller (SPD) said Tuesday on public broadcaster ZDF's “Morgenmagazin.”
He added that the extent of the restrictions would be determined by current infection figures, which have currently plateaued “at a very high level” or, at best, are declining slightly.
“In this respect, I expect that we will also continue living with restrictions in January,” said Müller.
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The tightened lockdown, which includes strict restrictions on gatherings, the closure of most stores, schools and Kitas, as well as restaurants and cultural facilities, is currently set to apply until January 10th.
On January 5th, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the state premiers will discuss how to proceed thereafter. The numbers of new infections and deaths, as well as the occupancy of intensive care beds in hospitals, will be key decision-making criteria.
Thuringia's state premiere Bodo Ramelow (of the Left party) told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that, “We all assume that the lockdown must be extended,” as nothing suggested otherwise.
What about schools and Kitas?
It is still unclear how an extended lockdown would affect schools and Kitas. Education ministers of each of Germany’s 16 states want to discuss the issue on January 4th.
In Hamburg, the state senate already decided compulsory attendance in schools would not be required again until January 17th.
The Social Democratic (SPD) parliamentary health expert Karl Lauterbach, however, told the Rheinische Post: “After the lockdown, there must be no return to regular in person classes.”
“Masks and ventilation plus 30 children does not work, but instead again threatens exponential growth of infection figures.”
Lauterbach advocated for “nationwide divided (rotating) classes, additional support for those with learning difficulties, compulsory masking in school buildings without exception, and shortened summer vacations to compensate for the deficits.”
Continually high figures
On Tuesday, German health authorities reported 12,892 new coronavirus infections within 24 hours. In addition, 852 additional deaths were recorded, as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced.
However, these figures are only conditionally comparable with those of the previous week, because the RKI expected a lower number of tests and also fewer reports from health offices at the turn of the year.
This graph (credit: DPA) shows where in Germany has had the highest number of infections per 100,000 in the population over the past seven days.
Nevertheless, the number of deaths a week ago was lower at 731 cases. The number of new infections a week ago was 19,528.
The number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants reported to the health authorities within seven days was 149.2 on Tuesday morning. The German government is aiming for a value of less than 50, because then infection chains would be traceable again.
Will there be special treatment for vaccinated people?
Following the rollout of vaccines at the weekend, German politicians have also been discussing preferential treatment of those who have been vaccinated – for example at events, in restaurants or when traveling by air.
Legal experts from the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democrats (CDU) found regulatory gaps, and consumer protectionists also warned against the move. The Free Democratic (FDP) parliamentary group, on the other hand, believes it to be “justified in principle.”
Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) had already warned against special rights for those vaccinated early.
The discussion centres on the as-yet unresolved question of whether or not a vaccinated person no longer falls ill themselves when in contact with the pathogen, but can pass the virus on to others.
Secretary of the FDP parliamentary group, Marco Buschmann, told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that only when a a person poses no danger to himself or others, “then the state must not restrict his freedom.”