The nationwide ‘Notbremse’ (emergency brake), set to be passed by parliament next week, is part of the updated federal Infection Control Act. It will force Covid hotspots in Germany to introduce stricter measures.
They include night time curfews, and the closure of non-essential shops and businesses.
“There is no way around it: We have to slow down the third wave of the pandemic and stop the rapid increase in infections,” Merkel said to the Bundestag (parliament).
“To finally do that, we have to join forces at the federal, state and local levels better than we have recently.”
On Friday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 25,834 new coronavirus cases around Germany, as well as 247 deaths from or with the virus. On Thursday, the RKI warned the new cases could approach a record level in April if no action is taken.
Merkel also issued an urgent warning that the pandemic will overwhelm the healthcare system if stronger measures are not introduced.
“Intensive care physicians send out one cry for help after another – who are we if we overhear these distress calls?” asked Merkel.
“We must not leave doctors and nurses alone. Alone, they cannot win the battle against the virus in this third wave, even with the best medical art and the most sacrificial effort.”
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Merkel also defended the night-time curfews, which are part of the new “emergency brake” measures. Regions with a 7-day incidence of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 residents will have to enforce strict stay-at-home orders between the hours of 9pm and 5am.
Some regions are already set to introduce the new measure next week.
The curfews are not new to the Infection Protection Act, said Merkel, but previously states themselves could choose whether or not they wanted to enforce them or not.
Amending the law means the federal government can force states to follow these restrictions.
The chancellor pointed to other countries, such as Portugal and the UK, which have enforced such measures “in some cases considerably more restrictively” than planned in Germany.
“The point is to reduce evening visitor movements from one place to another – incidentally also using local public transport,” Merkel said.
Curfews are not a panacea, she said, but will have a strong impact when combined with other measures such as strict contact restrictions.