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Germany makes new prediction for jobs and economy in 2021

The German government said Wednesday it expected Europe's top economy to grow by three percent this year, less than previously forecast, as longer virus shutdowns slow the pandemic recovery.

Germany makes new prediction for jobs and economy in 2021
A man passes by an old sign for a closing sale in Hamburg's city centre in January. Photo: DPA

Back in October, the economy ministry was still forecasting a gain of 4.4 percent for 2021.

But a second coronavirus wave that took hold late last year and a sluggish start to vaccine rollouts across the European Union have doused hopes of a strong rebound in the early months of 2021.

Presenting the annual economic report in Berlin, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said it would take “until the second half” of 2022 for the German economy to return to pre-pandemic levels.

“The recovery is continuing, albeit with less momentum,” said Altmaier.

“A mixed picture is emerging: while industry continues to prove robust, the
services sector is severely affected.”

Germany's gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 5.0 percent last year, the biggest decline since the 2009 financial crisis, as the pandemic swept the globe and ravaged economic activity.

The downturn was less harsh than in other large EU economies however, mainly thanks to Germany's resilient manufacturers and huge support packages from Chancellor Angela Merkel's traditionally frugal government.

Like much of Europe, Germany has been hit hard by a resurgence in Covid-19 cases in recent months, prompting officials to reimpose restrictions on public life.

The country closed restaurants, hotels, culture and leisure centres in November, followed by schools and non-essential shops in December. The measures have since been extended until mid-February.

Unlike during the first shutdowns last spring, factories have been allowed to stay open, leaving Germany's key export sector largely intact.

While the nation's coronavirus infection rate has started slowing down, the number of daily deaths remains high.

There are also concerns that new, more contagious virus variants could lead to another surge in cases, and health experts have cautioned against lifting curbs too early.

READ ALSO: Number of new Covid-19 cases in Germany continues to fall


People in Cologne in January. Photo: DPA

'Rocky road'

The DIW think-tank has estimated that German output could contract by as much as three percent over the first three months of 2021, after zero expansion in the fourth quarter last year.

“The German economy has a long and rocky road to go before it can return to growth,” said DIW economist Claus Michelsen.

In its report, the economy ministry said the pandemic fallout would “significantly” impact first quarter growth.

The economy “should pick up speed again” once more people have been vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, it added.

Until then, Germany will be counting on its machine makers, car manufacturers and other industrial sectors to counteract the slump seen in close-contact businesses such as hospitality, travel and retail.

Industrial orders jumped 2.3 percent in November month-on-month, the latest
data from federal statistics agency Destatis showed, while factory output rose 0.9 percent.

Both indicators have been rising for several months, powered by demand from China where the virus has been largely contained.

But the picture is bleaker for firms at the sharp end of the restrictions.

The German Retail Association (HDE) has warned of a looming wave of bankruptcies that could see up to 50,000 stores close down in the months ahead.

READ ALSO: How the coronavirus crisis could change German city centres

In small- and medium-sized business, often ranked as the backbone of the German economy, more than a million jobs are at risk, according to the KfW public development bank.

Merkel's government has over the past year unveiled over a trillion euros
in rescue and stimulus funds to cushion the pandemic shock, ditching its cherished no-new-debt rule to do so.

Airline giant Lufthansa and tour operator TUI are among those that have tapped the government for state aid, and millions of Germans are on subsidised short-time work schemes.

But many businesses have also complained the financial assistance has been slow to arrive and that calculation rules have changed to their disadvantage in January.

The economy ministry said the government would “continue to support companies through this difficult time”, but the increase in public spending would be “more moderate” than last year.

Unemployment is expected to nudge down from 5.9 percent in 2020 to 5.8 percent, it added.

Altmaier said Germany should use the crisis to become more competitive, with a focus on skilled workers, digitisation and climate change.

Looking further ahead, Berlin has previously said it expects Germany's economy to grow 2.5 percent in 2022.

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HEALTH

When, where and how can I get the flu shot in Germany?

Seasonal flu vaccines, Covid boosters, and the monkeypox vaccine are recommended for risk groups in Germany as it gets colder. Here’s what you need to know.

When, where and how can I get the flu shot in Germany?

Flu cases are way up in Germany this year – back to over 22,000 nationwide so far, and those are just the laboratory-confirmed ones. With many Covid-19 restrictions also having slowed the spread of flu in 2020 and 2021, German doctors are particularly encouraging at-risk groups to get this year’s flu vaccine.

Who?

In principle, anyone in Germany can speak to their doctor and get the flu vaccine. However, it is recommended particularly for certain at-risk groups.

According to the German Robert Kock Institute (RKI), which advises the government on viruses, these groups include:

  • anyone over the age of 60
  • pregnant women from their second trimester
  • people with chronic underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, or various heart conditions
  • People who live or work in care homes
  • Medical personnel
  • People who work in areas with particularly high amounts of traffic. These could include schools or Kitas, for example
  • People who live with or care for someone from one of these groups

When?

Flu season’s peak is normally expected in January. That’s why doctors advise you to have your protection in place before then. So the best time to get vaccinated for the flu is between October and December.

With the vaccine taking about 10-14 days to kick in, doctors advise making sure you have the shot by mid-December, so that when the season peaks in January, your body is prepared to fight off the virus if you come in contact with it.

Where?

The easiest place to get a flu vaccine is at your doctor’s office. However, some health authorities run public vaccination campaigns, depending on your federal state. Some workplaces may also administer flu shots on site once a year.

For the first time this season though, pharmacies in Germany will be able to administer a flu shot to any adult with statutory health insurance. Check with your local pharmacy to see if they do it.

Can I get the flu shot at the same time as my Covid-19 booster shot?

In most cases, there are no restrictions on getting the flu shot and a Covid booster at the same time. Most flu vaccines given in Germany are inactivated viruses, which can be administered simultaneously with a flu shot. You don’t have to wait between getting one shot and getting the other.

If giving it you at the same time, your doctor will likely use both arms – one for each vaccine.

READ ALSO: What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

What about Monkeypox?

Germany has now seen its total number of reported monkeypox cases hit 3,656—with around half of all cases being reported in Berlin. With more and more people getting vaccinated though, the seven-day average of new infections has slowed from a peak of 71 per day in mid-July to less than one a day in October.

That’s far less than the US rate of 105 a day or even Spain at just over four a day.

The vast majority of cases worldwide and in Germany have been detected in gay and bisexual men, whom German health authorities are still advising to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

Other risk groups include people who work in certain laboratories where they might become exposed, and people who have already potentially been exposed.

Someone who suspects they’ve been in contact with a confirmed case of monkeypox is advised to get a vaccine shot within four days.

READ ALSO: Who can get the monkeypox vaccine in Germany – and how?

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