Germany to restrict movement for residents in Covid-19 hotspots

The government and states have agreed to restrict travel for residents in Covid-19 hotspots to a 15 km radius, according to DPA.

Germany to restrict movement for residents in Covid-19 hotspots
Tables shut off in Augsburg. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders have been discussing measures such as local movement restrictions and tighter contact rules to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Now they've decided to restrict the radius of movement drastically for people who live in Covid-19 hotspots, DPA reported on Tuesday.

When a district hits an average of 200 coronavirus infections per 100,000 residents in seven days, those living there will only be allowed to travel a maximum of 15 km from their home, according to the draft agreement.

So far, this type of travel ban is only in place in the state of Saxony (since December 14th).

According to the draft decision paper, more than 70 districts in Germany have an incidence of over 200.

Chancellor Merkel had been pushing for this order to come into force in regions with an incidence rate of 100 infections per 100,000 people in seven days. If Merkel got her way, this rule would then apply to most of the country, effectively bringing regional travel to a complete standstill.

According to Tagesspiegel, just 99 districts or cities have an incidence of less than 100. In total, there are 294 districts and 107 independent cities in Germany.

FACT CHECK: What's the latest on Covid-19 (and the new variant) in Germany

Currently people across Germany are urged to stay at home as much as possible and not travel domestically or internationally. But there is no ban on it.

Shutdown to be extended – but how tough will it be?

The draft plan so far is for the current lockdown measures – which include the closure of non-essential shops, restaurants and leisure facilities, to be extended until at least the end of January. The measures were due to expire at the end of Sunday January 10th.

READ ALSO: Germany set to prolong shutdown as vaccine row intensifies

Here's what else is on the table:

– According to the Tagesspiegel, the government and states are considering tightening contact restrictions. It could mean that one household would be allowed to meet one other person from a different household.

So far, the rule is: one household plus one other household with a maximum of five people (under 14s not included).

– The government and states will also likely discuss curfews.

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder believes curfews are an effective means of dealing with high infection rates.

In Bavaria, there is a curfew between 9pm and 5am throughout the state, with exceptions for professional reasons or emergencies. The situation is similar in Baden-Württemberg and Saxony. In North Rhine-Westphalia there is no state-wide order, but there are curfews at the district level.

Curfews are also in place in other European countries, including France.

– Merkel and state leaders may also consider giving a 'stay at home' order to residents in hotspots in Germany to try and limit the spread. There are concerns over a spike in mid-January due to contact restrictions being eased at Christmas.

– The issue of schools and childcare will also be on the agenda. German officials have said that education is a priority and this should be the first sector to reopen after any shutdowns.

We'll report on the final decisions when they're announced.

READ ALSO: How long will Germany's tough lockdown measures be in place?

Vaccine production

Merkel is also intervening on the issue of vaccine shortages.

According to Spiegel, a meeting with the Chancellor and responsible ministers is planned for Wednesday. Among other things, they will discuss the question of how additional vaccine production can be supported by the federal government.

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to improve Covid-19 vaccine rollout in January


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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.”