Merkel says Germany could need tough lockdown measures ‘for 8 to 10 more weeks’

Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly told her party members that the tough Covid-19 measures in Germany will be needed until spring if numbers don't improve.

Merkel says Germany could need tough lockdown measures 'for 8 to 10 more weeks'
Angela Merkel on January 6th. Photo: DPA

According to German daily Bild, Merkel told members of her conservative party that she is seriously concerned about the new Covid-19 variant that is causing major problems in the UK.

She believes if left unchecked it will lead to prolonged Covid measures.

“If we don't manage to hold off this British virus, we will have a 10-fold incidence by Easter,” she reportedly said at an internal meeting of the Christian Democrats and Christian Social Union.

“We need another 8-10 weeks of tough measures,” added Merkel, according to Bild.

However, three participants of the meeting told Reuters that Merkel had not explicitly spoken of an extension of the current measures, and that she had not warned of a tenfold increase in infection numbers in Germany.

“Merkel said the coming eight to ten weeks would be very hard if the British variant spreads to Germany,” one of the people said, adding the Chancellor had referred to a tenfold surge in infection numbers in Ireland due to the new variant.

Germany has been in a state of shutdown since November 2nd when the 'lockdown light' came into force. However, restrictions have got progressively tougher.

Now the rules, which have seen the closure of the hospitality industry and schools as well as non-essential shops plus cultural and leisure facilities, have been extended until January 31st.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: These are Germany's new tighter lockdown rules

However, the Chancellor, like Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder, has repeatedly stressed that even at the end of January there is no guarantee that the measures will be relaxed.

The aim is to bring the incidence (new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days) below the level of 50. Only then would the health authorities be in a position to track the contacts of people with Covid-19 again.

READ ALSO: 'No travel until late May', warns German government

Worries over Covid-19 variants

Experts are increasingly concerned about the new variants – particularly, the mutation that originated in the UK. The number of infections there has skyrocketed in recent weeks.

Frankfurt virologist Dr Martin Stürmer issued an urgent warning about the new variant: “The variants B117 from England and N501Y from South Africa show that in Germany, too, we have to examine more gene sequences, look for mutations. This is technically possible, but it costs time and money.”

Health Minister Jens Spahn wants to order testing laboratories to check every tenth Covid-19 test for mutations by analysing the genome sequence data, according to a draft paper. At the moment, this examination only happens to about every 900th coronavirus test in Germany.

Member comments

  1. c’mon, if Bild is the source I better don’t want to know at all. that a terrible sensationalist “news” site.

  2. Thank you so much to all the people who have not respected the rules. Those of us who have lost loved ones, are front liners, have no work, are isolated from family and friends, have no income….?

    We really appreciate your selfish, dumb, egotistical behaviour. Be proud of yourselves for destroying lives.

  3. What happened to ‘two weeks to flatten the curve’. Meanwhile hospital staff make TikTok videos to pass time, while hospitals are empty. Hospitals have never been emptier. Meanwhile, people who need surgery & life saving care are being denied treatment. The economy is being ruined & Businesses destroyed. But people still continue to believe that the government will take care of us and make all the bad stuff go away. Time to wake up & realise that government & global companies are the cause, not the solution to the these problems they present to us.

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Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

Germany has unveiled a draft of new Covid laws to run until April next year, with mask mandates set to remain in force, but lockdowns and school closures ruled out. Here's what we know so far.

Masks and no lockdowns: Germany's new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The German government has prepared a graduated plan to try and limit the spread of Covid-19 this autumn. Under the new draft Infection Protection Act, states will be allowed to put in place certain rules to protect the population against Covid, from October. 

It was unveiled by the Health Ministry and Justice Ministry on Wednesday. 

Among the plans are for masks to remain compulsory in long-distance transport and in hospitals. They could also be made compulsory in other indoor areas, such as restaurants, but usually with exceptions for those who are recently vaccinated, recovered or tested. 

“If the number of cases rises sharply – masks (can also be enforced) outdoors where distances are not sufficient, and upper limits indoors,” said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, in a tweet where he showcased the plans. 

How long will the law be in place?

The current Infection Protection Act runs out on September 23rd. The new laws, which form the legal basis for Covid-19 measures in Germany, will apply from October 1st to April 7th 2023.

READ ALSO: Masks and tests: The Covid rules that tourists to Germany should know about

What are the draft plans?

As shown above in the diagram tweeted by the Health Minister in German, the rules have been divided into “”winter tyres” (Winterreifen)  and “snow chains” (Schneeketten), which is meant to represent possible different stages.

There are rules that will apply to the whole of Germany during the autumn/winter and early spring, certain measures that states can bring in, and the option for tougher restrictions if the situation worsens.

Nationwide protective measures from October 1st 2022 to April 7th 2023:

– Mandatory FFP2 masks on airplanes and on long-distance public transport.

– Mandatory masks and testing for access to hospitals and similar facilities, as well as for employees.

– Exceptions to the requirement to provide proof of testing are envisaged for recently vaccinated and recovered people, as well as for people who are being treated in the respective facilities or service providers.

– Exemptions from the mask requirement are provided for some people receiving treatment, for children under six, for people who can’t wear a mask for medical reasons, and for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wears an FFP2 mask at a conference in June.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wears an FFP2 mask at a conference in June. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Optional tougher measures for states:

Under the draft plan, states can take additional measures if the pandemic situation requires. These include:

– Mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

– Mandatory masks in indoor spaces such as restaurants and cultural facilities. However, the plans envisage exceptions for people who have tested negatively against Covid, or who have been vaccinated or recently recovered. This could mean that the so-called ‘3G rule’ returns.

– Compulsory testing and/or masks in certain communal facilities (such as shelters for asylum seekers and children’s homes). Compulsory masks in schools would only apply to pupils from the fifth school year onwards.

Extreme measures when situation is critical:

State parliaments can enact even stricter measures if there is a threat of the health system or critical infrastructure becoming overburdened. These include:

– Compulsory wearing of masks indoors – and even outdoors if the minimum distance of 1.5 metre cannot be maintained. An exemption for recently vaccinated, tested or recovered people wouldn’t apply. 

– Mandatory health and safety plans (such as disinfectants and ventilation) for businesses and events in the recreational, cultural and sports sectors.

– Ordering a minimum distance of 1.5 m in public spaces and at outdoor events.

– Upper limits for participants at events in indoor areas.

What else should I know?

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, of the Free Democrats, said it was important that Germany would not see further lockdowns, but that masks were a key part of the plan. 

“There should only be restrictions on freedom if they are necessary,” said Buschmann. “Our concept therefore rejects lockdowns and curfews.

“Instead, we rely on measures that are both effective and reasonable. Masks protect. And in certain situations, mandatory masks are also reasonable.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP)

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) gives an interview to DPA on February 3rd. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

“That is why masks will be compulsory in hospitals and nursing homes as well as in long-distance transport. If the pandemic situation so requires, the states can also order compulsory masks for other areas of public life indoors. In culture, leisure, sport and gastronomy, however, there must be exceptions for tested, newly vaccinated and newly recovered persons.”

Buschmann said Germany was also relying on “individual responsibility of civil society – as most other European states do”.

He added that the government was paying “special attention” to schools.

“Children have a right to school education, and a school day that is as carefree as possible,” he said. “Therefore, there must be no school closures. A blanket obligation to wear masks in schools would also not be appropriate.”

What happens next?

The Cabinet will take a look at the proposals before the final draft goes to the Bundestag to be voted on.