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COVID-19

What you need to know about Germany’s ‘hard lockdown’ measures over Easter

In view of the drastic increase in the number of coronavirus infections, the federal and state governments are sending the whole of Germany into the most severe lockdown over Easter since the start of the pandemic a year ago.

What you need to know about Germany's 'hard lockdown' measures over Easter
An Easter display in the normally tourist town of Barth, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Monday. Photo: DPA

Since the publication of this article, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has cancelled plans for an Easter lockdown. See the details HERE.

Between April 1st to April 5th, or from the Thursday before Easter to Easter Monday, public, private and economic life is to be largely shut down in order to break the third wave of the pandemic.

This was decided by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the state premiers in a marathon meeting lasting more than eleven hours early Monday morning. 

The current lockdown measures will be extended by a total of three weeks until April 18th. 

READ ALSO: Germany to enter strict Easter lockdown to fight ‘new pandemic’

A discussion on how to proceed after that is scheduled for April 12th. “We have not yet been able to defeat the virus, it is not letting up,” Merkel said early Tuesday morning, explaining the tough measures. 

Germany, she said, is in a very serious situation with exponentially increasing numbers of cases, a rising burden on intensive care units in hospitals and the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants.

Here’s what you need to know about the strict Easter measures:

“Lull” over Easter

Merkel calls the particularly sharp lockdown over Easter a “lull” – or days of rest associated with far-reaching contact restrictions. 

“Thus, the principle #WeStayAtHome applies on five consecutive days,” the resolution of the federal and state governments states. 

Accordingly, only on Saturday will grocery stores remain open. Private gatherings are to be limited to one’s own household and one other household, but no more than five people. Children up to 14 years of age will not be counted. Couples with separate homes will be considered one household.

All gatherings in public spaces will generally be prohibited during this time, according to the resolution, which states that “for five continuous days the principle that ‘we are staying at home’ will apply.”

Where outdoor dining is already open, it must be closed again for those five days. Churches and religious communities are asked to offer only online services on Easter. Only vaccination and testing centres are to remain open.

Restaurants and cafes are also to remain closed at Easter.

‘Emergency brake’ to take effect

The “emergency brake” agreed at the beginning of March for more than 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days, is to be implemented consistently around the country. 

Opening steps are to be reversed when the mark is reached – on Tuesday morning it was 108.1 nationwide, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). However, the districts are also to take further measures if the threshold is exceeded. 

Among the possibilities mentioned in the resolution are curfews, tightened contact restrictions and the obligation to conduct rapid tests on a daily basis in areas where spacing or consistent mask-wearing is difficult.

Merkel speaks during a press conference following marathon talks via video conference with Germany’s state premiers on the extension of the current lockdown. Photo by Michael Kappeler / POOL / AFP

Domestic tourism to be put on pause

Tourism in the country will not be possible during the Easter vacations. Hotels and other accommodation facilities are to remain closed to holidaymakers. This point caused a particularly great deal of annoyance during the meeting.

Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate urged that their own residents be allowed to spend their vacations in vacation apartments, vacation homes, apartments, caravans and mobile homes, provided that they have their own sanitary facilities and that they can also organise their own meals. 

Yet this has now been completely axed from the final resolution. 

What about a holiday in Mallorca?

The lifting of the travel warning and quarantine obligation earlier this month for the German’s favourite Spanish island, often jokingly dubbed Germany’s 17th state, caused a lot of excitement. And holidays are still possible there – with exceptions.  

However, the federal and state governments are appealing to airlines to stop offering additional flights for the Easter vacations.

In addition, a general testing requirement is to be introduced for all flights from abroad to Germany before departure. Until now, only travellers from “high-incidence areas” with particularly high numbers of infections and from areas with new virus variants have to present a test upon entry. 

READ ALSO: ‘Not an invitation to go there’: Germany urges against Mallorca holiday following lifting of travel warning

If you come from a “normal” risk area, you don’t have to be tested until 48 hours after arrival in Germany, which is difficult to control.

However, there are also areas in Europe that are no longer on the RKI’s risk list, such as Mallorca. Here’s the RKI’s current list.

The new mandatory testing is aimed primarily at vacationers returning to Germany in the coming weeks. In the Easter period, there are expected to be around 40,000.

Difficult talks

The round of talks between the federal and state governments was one of the most difficult since the beginning of the pandemic. According to reports, Chancellor Merkel was very dissatisfied with the course of the meeting. 

For hours, the large round was interrupted and negotiations continued in small circles. Berlin’s mayor, Michael Müller (SPD), spoke of a “difficult birth” after the discussions. 

Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder also called the negotiations difficult, but also praised the clear course that had been found. “We know that the coronavirus lies lead-heavy over the country,” he said. 

But he said it was now in hand to end the third wave more quickly than the previous one. “Impatience must not become our weakness,” the CSU chairman warned.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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