Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers on Wednesday decided to extend current coronavirus restrictions over concerns about the Covid-19 variants spreading – but there are also plans to reopen some parts of public life.
The current measures – which include the closure (apart from takeaway food and deliveries) of restaurants, bars, cafes, leisure facilities and cultural centres as well as contact restrictions – remain in place until at least March 7th.
“We want to do everything in our power so that we don't end up riding an up-and-down wave of openings and closures,” Merkel said, calling the period until mid-March “existential” for Germany's management of the pandemic.
However, Germany is looking ahead: if the number of Covid-19 infections falls steadily below 35 new cases per 100,000 residents in seven days (7 day incidence), states should be allowed to relax restrictions step by step.
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On Thursday the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 10,237 new cases within 24 hours, as well as 666 deaths. The national 7 day incidence per 100,000 people currently stands at 64.2
Here's a look at the latest rules and plans for the future:
CONTACT RESTRICTIONS: Households in Germany should continue to meet with only one other person outside the household. Your social circle should be kept as small as possible (a so-called social bubble). Residents are urged to “limit all contacts to the absolute minimum necessary and especially to avoid indoor gatherings”.
MASKS: Wearing surgical masks or masks of FFP2 or equivalent standard in shops and public transport remains compulsory. Surgical or FFP2 masks are also recommended for indoors meeting with two or more people.
TRAVEL: Travel is not banned but non-essential private travel and visits should be avoided.
WORKING FROM HOME: Employers must allow employees to work at home if their job permit this. This is regulated by a law put in place by the Labour Ministry. Where several people have to work together in the same room, protective masks should be worn and provided by the employer.
KITAS AND SCHOOLS: Merkel said she would have liked to see schools closed until at least March 1st. However, federal states, which are responsible for education, are to decide when and how schools and Kitas open. Several states want to open schools this month.
Precautionary measures such as ventilation, rapid tests and, where possible, high-quality masks, should be part of the plans to reopen, the government and states said.
Federal and state health ministers are also to examine whether nursery educators and primary school teachers should be given higher priority for vaccination.
HAIRDRESSERS: Hairdressers will be allowed to reopen from March 1st. They must control the number of customers on site with appointments, and surgical masks or those with FFP2 standard or similar must be worn.
FURTHER OPENING STEPS: States can think about opening public life further only when a “stable” incidence of no more than 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants is reached over a seven day period.
At this points shops, museums and galleries as well as other personal services (such as beauty salons) should be allowed to reopen.
Previously, the aim for authorities was to get down to 50 new infections per 100,000 residents in seven days before public life can be reopened – but this goal has been changed due to the threat of variants.
Berlin's head of government Michael Müller on Wednesday said “shopping tourism” should be prevented. For this reason, he said, all states stressed that there should be an understanding for a uniform approach, at least in neighbouring states.
The federal and state governments want to develop a “safe and fair opening strategy” for the reopening of culture facilities, sports, leisure, hospitality and the hotel industry.
In states and counties where there are still at least 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days, tougher conditions are to continue to apply, if necessary.
VACCINATIONS: Germany still plans to give all residents “offer of vaccination” by the end of the summer in September.
The federal and state governments will meet again on March 3rd to decide the next steps.