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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 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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