German government agrees on law for curfews and tougher coronavirus measures nationwide

German government agrees on law for curfews and tougher coronavirus measures nationwide
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) talks with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (l, SPD) and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) before the cabinet meeting at the Chancellery. Photo: DPA
The German government agreed Tuesday on controversial changes to a national infections control law, handing Berlin more power to impose tougher measures such as night-time curfews to halt the raging coronavirus pandemic.

The adjusted law, which still needs to be approved by parliament, would allow Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to impose curfews from 9pm to 5am and close schools and businesses in areas with high infection rates.

Areas which have a 7-day incidence of more than 100 infections per 100,000 residents over three days will have several strict measures put in place.

What rules does the government want?

The adjusted law agreed by cabinet on Tuesday would give Berlin the power to enforce this “emergency brake”.

The plan states that through a nighttime curfew, residents would only be allowed to leave their home for medical emergencies, work purposes or to take care of animals.

Private gatherings in public or private space are to be allowed only if they are attended by no more than the members of a household and one other person.

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Among other things, in the event of a higher incidence, most stores and recreational and cultural facilities, as well as restaurants (with the exception of pick-up and delivery), will also have to close.

READ ALSO: German lockdown measures could last ‘until the end of May or June’

The food trade, beverage markets, health food stores, baby markets, pharmacies, medical supply stores, drugstores, opticians, and gas stations are to be excluded.

Tourist accommodation would also be banned.

In schools, face-to-face classes would be allowed only when pupils have two negative coronavirus test results per week. However, if the 7-day incidence were to rise to 200 over three days, then in-person classes would no longer be allowed.

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Monday that the aim of the new law was to apply “uniform national” rules.

READ ALSO: Merkel to take control as states dither over Covid rules

Bitter disputes

Regular meetings between Berlin and the regions to set Germany’s coronavirus policies have been marked by bitter disputes and spotty compliance in recent weeks.

Most notably, some states have not followed through on an agreement to row back on the easing of measures in areas where the seven-day incidence rate exceeds 100 new infections per 100,000 people.

Only one out of Germany’s 16 states was reporting an incidence rate below 100 on Tuesday.

Cabinet also approved a new rule obliging employers to provide a weekly test to people who were unable to work from home.

READ ALSO: Germany pushes for firms to pay for mandatory Covid testing for employees

Yet the changes have been met with scepticism from regional leaders. Lower Saxony’s interior minister Boris Pistorius told Die Welt newspaper onMonday that it was a “big mistake to take power from the regions in the middle of a crisis”.

The German Association of Towns and Municipalities also criticised the plans, telling the Rheinische Post that the proposed curfews were “constitutionally problematic”.

The adjusted law still has to pass through parliament, where Merkel’s right-left coalition has a majority.

Rising infection rates

The controversial move away from Germany’s strict federal structures comes as Europe’s biggest economy struggles to contain rising infection rates.

“The numbers are too high at the moment. The pressure on our intensive care stations is growing and we have to say that this third wave is perhaps the hardest one to break,” said Merkel.

READ ALSO: Merkel vs Germany’s states: Who really holds the power to fight the pandemic?

Case numbers continue to rise despite cultural venues, restaurants and leisure facilities having been closed for months, with the total number of infections passing the three million mark on Monday.

Health authorities have warned that hospitals could become overwhelmed if tougher national measures are not imposed soon.

“We urgently appeal to the politicians to pass the changes to the infection control law by the end of the week,” Gernot Marx, president of the German Association for Intensive Medicine (DIVI), told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

Member comments

  1. Deb, they haven’t specified which test they will do. The free weekly one is the nasal swab that goes all the way back and is very uncomfortable. Verbrannt – your comment would be funny if children had bristles designed to scrape in tissue into them and they shoved them all the way back.

  2. Actual scientists studying COVID: “There is no outdoor transmission. Curfews are draconian and unnecessary, do not help, and likely even make things worse by encouraging people to covertly meet indoors where they will then spread the virus.”

    The government: “I see! So you’re saying it’s a problem that we can’t currently force a state to impose a curfew?”

    Scientists: “No. Literally the opposite of that.”

    Government: “Right! Curfews it is. After all, we must trust the science.”

    How do they expect anyone to take the rules seriously if they insist on passing nonsense rules?

    1. Not sure which ‘Actual scientists’ you’re referring to. All the real ones support social distancing and social gathering minimization measures, especially in peak waves. They are very vocal about it on very official sources.

      They also support coordinated approaches within a country, otherwise what is the point. Night curfews also restrict people heading for indoor night gatherings. And they limit the risk of after hour alcohol and parties etc… dropping peoples inhibitions. In general they communicate the over arching message: be vigilant, we are in a risk phase.

      1. As for communicating messages, that’s exactly the problem: viruses don’t respond to narratives; they respond to action. The message that was communicated to me by the night curfew in Brandenburg was “the government here doesn’t understand science, and they don’t feel it’s their responsibility to change that, even during a pandemic.”

        Or am I seriously supposed to believe that going for a walk alone on a deserted street at one in the morning is more likely to spread the virus than meeting one friend in their living room between the respectable hours of 5AM and 9PM? Come on. If anything what our brief night curfew did was force me to conduct all of my business at the same time as everyone else, driving me into closer physical proximity with other people – exactly the opposite of the desired effect. Which anybody could have predicted, and some of us did.

        There is a massive contingent of people online who don’t take this virus seriously at all, and they are driven largely by the obvious conflation of pandemic action with shameless power grabs and economic manipulation happening all over the world. Governments are not acting in a trustworthy fashion, and so the conspiracy theorists are given ammunition not to trust them. And when I start seeing night curfews brought into force by way of a sudden consolidation of federal power, I’m inclined to side with them at least insofar as considering that the government obviously is either acting in bad faith or is incompetent.

        My eventual response to the night curfew was simply to ignore it. But I’m a rational person, and I can roll my eyes at the government while still taking the virus itself seriously and obeying the restrictions that actually have science behind them. Most people, I think, are more likely to say, “screw it, these idiots don’t know what they’re doing, and I’m not playing ball anymore.” So no, I wouldn’t agree that they send an effective message at all. In fact, when I was out late during the night curfew, what I saw was a lot of young people meeting without masks and not socially distancing. They weren’t remotely interested in the rules.

        And then we all scratched our heads and wondered why it wasn’t working.

  3. Oh please, it’s hardly a not the more traumatic nasopharyngeal swab, they just swab the lower segment, it is NOT a big deal and the kids can do it themselves. Also worth noting the new variants are more infectious for younger people.

  4. Please support these claims with evidence. Otherwise, you are possibly continuing the spread of misinformation.

  5. Lyssa: Nasal swabs are torture! Won’t somebody think of the children?!

    Children: I think I’ll bury my entire finger in my nose and eat whatever I can pull out.

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