Merkel proposes plan to ease lockdown measures in three stages

Chancellor Angela Merkel is to put together a proposal to come out of shutdown in three stages.

Merkel proposes plan to ease lockdown measures in three stages
Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

Germany is looking ahead to relaxing Covid-19 measures and coming out of the shutdown which has been in place since November.

On Monday Merkel reportedly told her Christian Democrat (CDU) party members that the lockdown measures could be eased in several stages, combined with increased coronavirus testing.

Here are the three areas which will be focused on:

  • personal contacts (this refers to how many people you can meet)
  • schools and vocational schools
  • sports, restaurants/cafes and culture

The aim is to put together packages from these areas to make reopening possible.

Merkel has previously said once a package of measures is relaxed, the country will wait two weeks to see how the infection situation develops before another step is taken.

The Chancellor urged for a cautious reopening, coupled with more testing.

Yet she acknowledged that the public was eager to know Germany's roadmap back to some kind of normality.

A working group with Merkel's chief of staff Helge Braun and heads of the state chancelleries are to put together a plan on how to reopen public life.

They aim to present the plan at the next talks between Merkel and the state leaders on March 3rd.

What's the infection situation in Germany?

The curve of new infections has shown an upward trend in recent days – despite the tighter lockdown measures in force since mid-December.

On Monday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 4,369 new infections within a day, compared to 4,426 a week ago.

The number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (7-day incidence) continued to rise to 61.0 nationwide. The previous day, it was 60.2.

There are major concerns of Covid-19 variants pushing up numbers.

“The mutation is unfortunately destroying our good development right now,” Helge Braun reportedly said during the Monday meeting.

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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.”