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ANGELA MERKEL

LATEST: Germany’s emergency brake ‘set to expire’ in June amid low Covid figures

Germany's nationwide emergency brake, put in place in late April to stem the spread of Covid-19, will likely not be extended beyond June 30th, announced Chancellor Angela Merkel.

LATEST: Germany's emergency brake 'set to expire' in June amid low Covid figures
Pedestrians in the centre of Munich on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

Due to current low infection figures, the regulation is set to expire, Merkel said on Monday in Berlin. The countrywide regulation provides for automatic nighttime curfews and school closures in areas with a high 7-day incidence of Covid cases.

Merkel nevertheless urged caution. If the numbers rise again, the ’emergency brake’ could be reinstated at any time, the Chancellor said after the meeting.

“Covid-19 is still there, although fortunately the incidences are now declining,” said Merkel. “We also need to continue to be sensible to a greater extent than if this pandemic didn’t exist.”

What are the current figures?

However, for the first time in three weeks, the 7-day incidence in Germany stands higher than the previous day, according to figures released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Tuesday morning. 

The current 7-day incidence stands at 35.2, up from 35.1 on Monday. However, the numbers are significantly down from a week ago, when the incidence stood at 58.4. 

The following DPA graphic shows that the majority of Germany is reporting a 7-day incidence below 35 as of Tuesday June 1st.

Excluding the rise in the last 24 hours, the incidence had last jumped between May 9th to May 10th, but then continued to steadily fall.

READ ALSO: How did Germany get Covid cases down – and will the trend continue?

However, the RKI said that it’s difficult to know what led to the slight increase in infections. After the Whit Monday national holiday (May 24th), the RKI had pointed out that the holiday may have initially led to fewer people getting tested – and thus a lower incidence.

Other politicians call for reduced restrictions – with limits

Social Democratic Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz wants to significantly reduce the restrictions from July onwards, due to both dropping infections and improving weather, Scholz said in Berlin. 

But he added that companies must continue to allow their employees to work from home. “We must remain cautious,” the Vice Chancellor said on Monday.

The chairman of the Bundestag’s health committee, on the other hand, believes it is necessary to keep the federal emergency brake in sight beyond the end of June.

“Especially because of the virus variations, I think it makes sense,” CDU politician Erwin Rüddel told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. 

“If the incidences remain so low, the emergency brake will not take effect and we will all enjoy our freedoms again for the most part. However, if incidences rise again, it’s important to be able to react quickly to keep the numbers under control.”

READ ALSO: How worried should Germany be about the Covid variant from India?

The emergency brake has been in force since April 23rd. It was the first nationwide regulation which specified that numerous contact restrictions must apply in cities and districts which clock up more than 100 Covid infections per 100,000 people in seven days ( 7-day incidence). 

It was put in place after many states went their own way on Covid restrictions instead of following rules agreed by the government and state leaders. 

The curfew between 10pm and 5am was particularly controversial.

It also stated that schools must be closed at a 7-day incidence of 165. When the emergency brake was passed, the incidence nationwide averaged around 160. 

Vocabulary

expire – ablaufen

cautious – vorsichtig

controversial – umstritten

apply – gelten

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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