EXPLAINED: What will Germany’s plan to extend lockdown measures involve?

The German government wants to extend shutdown measures until mid-March - but parts of public life could reopen soon. Here's what else is in the draft document.

EXPLAINED: What will Germany's plan to extend lockdown measures involve?
The Federal Chancellery building in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

The government said in its draft paper published on Wednesday that the coronavirus measures have led to a “significant decline in the incidence of infection”. 

“For the first time since the end of October 2020, it has been possible to reduce the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide to a value of less than 80 within seven days,” said the paper. 

“For some federal states, an incidence below 50 is already in sight, although not yet achieved.”

On Wednesday Germany recorded 8,072 coronavirus cases and 813 deaths within 24 hours. The number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days stands at 68.

The current coronavirus measures are due to expire on February 14th.

Here's a snapshot of the latest proposals which will be discussed at the meeting on Wednesday afternoon between Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders. Final decisions are expected after the talks.

READ ALSO: German government pushes to extend Covid-19 shutdown to March 14th

Extension of shutdown

Despite the fall in infection numbers, new and more contagious coronavirus variants “are spreading especially quickly and require significant additional efforts”, said the draft government document.

Due to this situation, Chancellor Merkel's government proposed extending the shutdown to March 14th. However, the states pushed for the extension to end earlier – on March 7th.

Late on Wednesday it emerged that the shutdown would be extended to March 7th.

READ ALSO: Germany to extend lockdown measures to March 7th

The government says in its draft document that opening steps “must be taken carefully and gradually in order not to risk the successful containment of the infection by a renewed exponential growth of the number of cases”.

The federal and state governments say they will “jointly coordinate opening steps in the coming weeks”.

Hairdressers could reopen earlier

Despite the shutdown remaining in place, it does look like there will be some changes.

The draft paper states that hairdressers in Germany should be able to reopen from March 1st, “subject to hygiene requirements, access control with reservations and the use of medical masks”.

The government says hairdressers are important for “personal hygiene” reasons.

READ ALSO: Hair salons in Germany to reopen on March 1st

Plans to reopen other parts of public life

The government's draft paper leaves the next steps open to discussion.

The draft suggests that relaxations of the shutdown could happen in states when the number of cases per 100,000 people in seven days (7-day incidence) reaches 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants.

Up to this point, authorities had been aiming to get the incidence rate under 50 – but this appears to have changed due to the threat of variants spreading.

The government says these next steps should include the reopening of non-essential shops museums, galleries and other personal services such as beauty salons.

“In order to give citizens and businesses planning perspectives, the federal government and the states are continuing to work on the development of the next steps in a safe and fair opening strategy so that our lives regain more normality,” said the draft document.

In areas with high infection figures, measures would remain in place or be tightened.

Contact restrictions remain

Households in Germany are currently allowed to meet with one other person, and everyone is urged to have a small “social bubble”, cutting social contacts down to the minimum.

These restrictions will remain in place, according to the draft paper.

“The contact restrictions must be maintained in the coming weeks,” said the government.

“Citizens are urged to continue to limit contacts to an absolute minimum, even in areas where the incidence of infection is steadily decreasing.

“The principle 'we stay at home' remains the essential tool in the fight against the pandemic and saves lives every day,” added the draft paper.

Medical masks

Medical masks (i.e. so-called surgical masks or respirators such as FFP2 standard or comparable) must still be worn in public transport and in shops. 

The wearing of medical masks indoors is also “strongly recommended” by the government in situations where two or more people are together.

READ ALSO: Should Germany's lockdown be tightened further over virus variants

Schools and Kitas

The government said schools should be a priority for reopening and that individual states should decide how and when this should gradually happen.

Medical masks, ventilation and hygiene measures will be needed in schools, the draft states.

“Increasingly, rapid tests should also enable safe teaching and minimise the risk of infection,” said the government.

Travel still to be avoided

The German government appeals for people to continue to avoid all unnecessary travel, within Germany and abroad.

Work from home

Companies must continue to allow employees to work from home when possible, the draft plan states.

Self Covid-19 testing in future

The government also mentions the use of rapid tests for self-administration “as another suitable means of increasing testing capacity in Germany”.

READ ALSO: Germany plans to allow sale of Covid-19 home test kits

Member comments

  1. So 50 per 100k was the goal, now its 35. Why stop there? Let’s get it down to 5 or 0. Thankfully COVID stays away from hairdressers after the 28th.

  2. So 50 per 100k was the goal, now its 35. Why stop there? Let’s get it down to 5 or 0. Thankfully COVID stays away from hairdressers after the 28th.

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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.”