Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state leaders recently extended the current shutdown until February 14th. They plan to meet on February 7th to discuss what happens next. It's expected that most if not all measures will be extended due to worries over Covid variants spreading.
One federal state, however, is already moving forward with proposals for an opening strategy, which it will present as a possible way for the whole country to emerge from the shutdown.
The plan by the government based in Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, suggests a gradual relaxation of measures in the coming months if the coronavirus situation improves.
It consists of four stages, with level two divided into two parts, and is based on the incidence levels of 100, 50 and 35 (that's the number of Covid-19 infections per 100,000 people in seven days).
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However, the measures can also be adapted depending on the situation in intensive care units, vaccination rates and epidemiological factors like the possible spread of novel mutations, the state's plan shows.
State premier Daniel Günther (of Merkel's CDU) said the proposal could be debated by other states and the federal government.
Günther said he would like to see uniform rules nationwide, and said childcare and schools must have priority in all decisions. In his view, the first opening step can only happen if the incidence remains below 100 as of February 15th – currently it is 92.7 in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany's northernmost state, according to Tagesspiegel figures.
Meanwhile, the seven-day average per 100,000 people is currently above 100 in 11 federal states, and it stands at around 112 for Germany as a whole.
Here's a look at the plan:
Stage 4: The incidence (number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in seven days) is above 100.
In this case there are to be no changes to current coronavirus measures.
Stage 3: The incidence is stable below 100 for seven days.
Contact restrictions: If the incidence falls below this number, contact restrictions are to be relaxed and return to the way they were before the last tightening. That means five people from a maximum of two households would be allowed to meet.
Kitas and schools: In daycare centres, there is to be restricted regular operation.
In schools, classes 1 to 6 are to start with alternating classes. If the incidence remains stable below 100 for three weeks, face-to-face teaching would be possible again. With the exception of final-year classes, years 7 to 13 are to continue with distance learning.
Services: Some personal services are to be allowed again, including hairdressers.
Hospitals and nursing homes: Patients and residents will be allowed to receive visits from two people – separately – instead of one. Regular testing is to remain in place.
Sport and leisure: Zoos and wildlife parks should be allowed to reopen. Facilities for some outdoor sports may only reopen after 21 days of stable incidence below 100.
People walking in Ahrensburg, Schleswig-Holstein, on Monday. Photo: DPA
Stage 2.2: The incidence is stable below 50 for seven days.
Kitas and schools: Kitas are to return to regular operation. Grades 1 to 6 and final grades go back to face-to-face teaching, grades 7 to 13 to alternate teaching. If the incidence remains stable below 50 for even 14 days, grades 7 to 13 should also return to face-to-face teaching.
Universities: Colleges and universities are allowed to offer practical courses again. Face-to-face exams are allowed with a limited number of participants and under hygiene conditions.
Retail and services: Shops are to be allowed to reopen with mandatory masks and an access restriction of one person per 10 square metres. In addition to hairdressers, personal services such as nail studios should also be allowed to reopen.
Hospitality: Restaurants are also to be allowed to reopen, but only to serve half the possible number of guests. They have to close at 10pm at the latest.
Hospitals and nursing homes: Patients and residents should be allowed to receive two visitors at the same time. The testing obligation is to remain in place.
Stage 2.1: The incidence is stable for 21 days below 50
Tourism: Hotels, holiday homes and campsites are to be allowed to operate using Covid-19 rapid tests.
Hospitality: The limit on the number of guests in restaurants is to be lifted, distance rules remain in place.
Sport and leisure: Theatres, concert halls and cinemas should be allowed to reopen at least for individual school groups.
Fitness studios should be allowed to open, but with restrictions. Low-impact sports are to be allowed for children under 12, but only for fixed groups of a maximum of 10 children. In addition, indoor facilities for some sports should be allowed to open.
Events: There would no longer be a limit on the obligation to notify for meetings of religious communities. Youth and leisure centres would be allowed to offer activities again, but only with fixed group sizes.
Stage 1: Incidence is stable below 25 for seven days.
Contact restrictions: Up to 10 people from several households are to be allowed to meet again.
Schools: There shall be unrestricted regular activities there again.
Universities: Face-to-face lectures for first-year students in groups are to be allowed. Classroom exams are to take place under hygiene regulations, but without a limit on the number of participants.
Hospitality: Bars and pubs should be allowed to reopen. However, guests must have fixed seats and provide their contact details. A hygiene concept is to be required. Should the incidence remain stable below 25 beyond the seven days, the 10pm curfew will be lifted.
Leisure: Theatres, concert halls and cinemas are to be allowed to open to the general public, albeit with limited numbers of people. Libraries can be used again under hygiene conditions, as well as amusement parks.
Sport: Indoor swimming pools and saunas should be allowed to reopen. In fixed groups, contact sports should also be allowed, but only after 21 days of stable incidence levels.
Hospitals and nursing homes: Extended visiting possibilities are to apply, i.e. not only two visitors per person.
Events: Professional and amateur sporting events are to be allowed again with a limited number of spectators – if the incidence is still stable below 35 after 21 days.
Religious events would be allowed again with a strictly limited number of participants and with a safety plan.