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ANGELA MERKEL

German lockdown measures could last ‘until the end of May or mid-June’

Germany may be facing a much longer shutdown, as new federal measures could last until the end of May or middle of June, reported Berlin’s Tagesspiegel on Monday.

German lockdown measures could last 'until the end of May or mid-June'
A closed restaurant in Koblenz, Rhineland-Palatinate, on April 1st. A curfew is in place in the city. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun (CDU) made it clear in a meeting with Germany’s 16 states on Sunday that the federal government could extend and strengthen current lockdown measures until the end of May or mid-June, according to the Tagesspiegel.

The move comes as part of a planned update to the Infection Protection Act, which aims to grant the federal government more control over regulations which previously were decided and enforced by the states.

READ ALSO: Germany to tighten national coronavirus law in bid to ‘create uniform rules’

According to a draft revision to the law, stricter measures would be put in place when there’s a 7-day incidence of over 100 new infections per 100,000 residents lasting for over three days, as well as automatically for a 7-day incidence of over 200. 

Based on the current infection rate around Germany, the government expects these measures to last several more weeks. The current shutdown, as decided on by Merkel and state leaders, was extended until April 18th at the last summit.

LATEST: Covid-19 infections in Germany rise above 3 million

What might the new measures look like?

If there’s a three-day long 7-day incidence of over 100, private gatherings would be restricted, there would be a nighttime curfew, and all businesses (with the exception of essential shops or businesses such as grocery stores) and cultural and recreational facilities would have to close again. Restaurants would remain closed except for take-out and delivery.

If the 7-day incidence rises above 200, schools and Kitas (daycare centres) would automatically be closed under the draft. State and local governments would no longer have any discretionary leeway.

READ ALSO: These are the new powers that Merkel plans to acquire in battle against pandemic

About half of all rural and urban districts in Germany currently have 7-day incidences over 100.

Since the measures would be decreed by law and not by ordinance, anyone who wants to challenge the decisions in court would only be able to do so through the Federal Constitutional Court. 

Several states have already argued that other criteria should be used in addition to the 7-day incidence value. 

In addition, there are calls not to close stores completely, but to allow “click and collect,” for example, a system which would allow people to shop by appointment only.

This is what the new draft measures in the Infection Protection Act specify:

  • Hard, regional lockdown if the 7-day incidence threshold of 100 is exceeded for three days
  • Private gatherings will be limited to members of a household and one other person
  • Curfews from 9pm to 5am, with exceptions for emergencies or work-related reasons
  • Sports will be very limited, with a maximum of two people
  • All businesses must also close – with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, drugstores and gas stations.
  • Cultural and leisure facilities such as zoos, swimming pools, museums, etc. will also have to close
  • The catering trade will remain closed. Pick-up and delivery of food is allowed, however
  • If the incidence level is below the level of 100 again for three days, the measures can be waived. If it is above that for three days, they come back into effect
  • Schools and daycare centers may remain open only if the incidence is below 200. Even then, students may only attend classes if they test twice a week

OPINION: Germany has never had a real Covid lockdown

The government is aiming to rush the law change through the Bundestag this week so it’s not set in stone at this stage.

Member comments

  1. If only they’d put as much energy in organising vaccinations as they do in deciding how to restrict us even more – we’d all be vaccinated by now.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

With infection numbers shooting up once again in Germany, states are set to bring in a new set of Covid measures on October 1st.

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of 'difficult' winter

From Saturday, masks will no longer be required on commercial flights, though people will still be expected to wear an FFP2 mask on long-distance trains.

States will also be given the option to introduce mandatory masks in other public indoor spaces, including on local public transport and in schools. If they choose to bring in masks, they’ll also have the freedom to introduce exceptions to masks for people who are recently vaccinated or who have tested negative for Covid.

States will also be able to introduce compulsory testing in schools and nurseries.

READ ALSO: German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Speaking at a press conference alongside Robert Koch Institute (RKI) chair Lothar Wieler on Friday, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach defended the decision to keep Covid rules in place when other countries in Europe have largely got rid of their pandemic measures. 

“It’s not for me to criticise what other countries are doing,” said Lauterbach. “We have a particularly difficult winter ahead of us due to the energy crisis, we don’t want to make it worse through the Covid crisis.”

The SPD politician also defended plans for mandatory masks for residents and staff in nursing and care homes. Having 40 or 50 vulnerable people together in an enclosed space is “extremely high-risk”, he said. 

Under the new rules set to be introduced on Saturday, residents of care homes will be expected to wear FPP2 masks in all common areas of the home, and will only be able to take them off in their bedrooms.

“For people in nursing homes, the FFP2 mask requirement means a considerable cut in their quality of life,” Regina Görner, chairwoman of the Federal Association of Senior Citizens’ Organisations (Bagso), told DPA:

“The nursing home is their home, in which they can then no longer move freely without a mask.”

Visitors to nursing homes, meanwhile, will have to supply a negative Covid test, while staff will be tested three times a week. 

Under the autumn and winter rules, people across Germany will also be required to wear an FFP2 mask at their doctor’s surgery and in medical outpatient facilities such as hospitals.

“We’re better prepared than last autumn,” Lauterbach told reporters on Friday. “We have the infection numbers under control, we have this wave under control.” 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

Steep rise in cases

As the weather turns colder, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has reported a steep rise in respiratory infections, including Covid-19.

Last week, the number of Covid patients jumped dramatically from 500,000 to 1.2 million per week, with cases rising significantly in every age group.

Meanwhile, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people shot up from 409 on Thursday to 466 on Friday. The previous week, the weekly incidence stood at 294 per 100,000 people. 

The numbers are believed to be partially inflated by the ongoing Oktoberfest beer festival, which is being held for the first time since the pandemic started. In Munich, the location of the festival, the weekly incidence is almost 800. 

Speaking at the press conference in Berlin on Friday, RKI chair Wieler warned people not to get complacent about the threat of infection.

“A mild course of illness simply means not ending up in hospital,” he said. “We should be conscious of how much risk we want take on, and how much risk we can avoid.”

RKI chief Lothar Wieler

Robert Koch Institute chair Lothar Wieler (l) and Heath Minister Karl Lauterbach (r) hold a press conference in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Despite the looming energy crisis, the RKI boss advised the public to ensure that rooms were well ventilated, adding that spaces normally occupied by a large number of people should be aired out more regularly.

He also advised people with Covid symptoms to stay home until they felt better in order to avoid passing on any infections, and warned that people should be especially careful to avoid contact with vulnerable people.

“Just like before, these people need our solidarity,” he said. 

Self-isolation and quarantine rules vary from state to state, but people who test positive for Covid generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10.

In some cases, people can take an additional Covid test in order to end their isolation early.

The RKI has also recommended that people wear a mask in public enclosed spaces. 

READ ALSO: What will the Covid situation in Germany look like this autumn?

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