Hamburg moves back into hard shutdown as third coronavirus wave gains momentum

Hamburg moves back into hard shutdown as third coronavirus wave gains momentum
People with facemasks walking on Hamburg's Reeperbahn in early March. Photo: DPA
The harbour city announced Friday it was rolling back the easing of restrictions, as Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse have also paused the moveout of lockdown, as the infection scenario worsened considerably on Friday.

The city-sate of Hamburg has become the first German state to move back into a hard lockdown in light of rising infections. The decision is expected to mean that all schools and busineses which opened in recent weeks will close again, while personal contacts will be reduced back to one person.

Hamburg has had a 7-day incidence over 100 on three consecutive days.

“I fear that the situation will continue to deteriorate,” Hamburg mayor Peter Tschentscher said in a statement on Friday. “We are dealing with a very contagious variant of the virus,” according to Spiegel.

Bavarian leader Markus Söder confirmed that all cultural institutions, restaurants and shops will stay closed until the next federal-state lockdown talks on Monday, as the 7-day incidence in his southern state rose above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Berlin, state governments also confirmed that no more easing of restrictions would take place.

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“We have to remain cautious,” said Berlin mayor Michael Müller. “I have not exhausted everything in Berlin that would be possible in terms of opening steps after the last lockdown summit,” he added.

“We can see how sensitive this situation is. I also don’t see that we have much room for further steps.”

Hesse similarly confirmed that it won’t bring children in grades 7 and above back into the classroom after all, due to rising infection numbers. 

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“We have a very dynamic situation. The third wave is here,” said state leader Volker Bouffier (CDU).

In total, six states now have 7-day incidences over 100 per 100,000 inhabitants, meaning pressure will grow for them to roll back the limited openings that have already happened and enter into a harder lockdown.

On March 3rd, at the last lockdown talks, state leaders agreed to a gradual easing of the lockdown but tied it to an “emergency brake” which state and regional leaders would have to pull should the 7-day incidence rise above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants for three consecutive days.

The emergency brake strictly means that a region should return to harder lockdown measures, with schools and businesses closed.

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The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported on Friday that the nationwide 7-day incidence shot up to 95.6, from 90 the day before. The disease control agency also reported 17,482 new cases for the past 24 hours, an increase of 5,000 on last Friday.

The RKI also confirmed that a further 226 people have died with or of the virus, marking a decrease from 252 a week ago.

ICU doctors call for emergency brake

The national intensive care register (DIVI) has urged states to stick to the agreements on the emergency brake.

“I hope that the politicians will implement the resolutions according to which the relaxations will be withdrawn if the incidence value exceeds 100,” said DIVI spokesman Christian Karagiannidis.

The federal government has shown its displeasure recent days, as several regions have refused to roll back the easing of restrictions despite having 7-day incidences above well above 100.

One such town, Pirmasens in Rhineland-Palatinate, claimed it would be “disproportionate and illegal” to go back into a lockdown. It has a 7-day incidence of 154.

DIVI spokesman Karagiannidis said that the current situation with intensive care patients was similar to October 2020.

“At that time, there were 3,000 Covid intensive care patients nationwide. If we slacken on vaccination now, keep the lockdown relaxations, and run the incidence up to 200, then it could be 5,000 to 6,000 patients,” Karagiannidis said.

That is “the absolute capacity limit” in the clinics, he warned.

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