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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel calls for ‘big effort’ to get through Germany’s fourth Covid wave

Germany will introduce tough new curbs that will exclude the unvaccinated from certain public areas to contain a dramatic rise in coronavirus infections, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday after crisis talks with regional leaders.

Angela Merkel speaks in Berlin on Thursday.
Angela Merkel speaks in Berlin on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa POOL | Michael Kappeler

The so-called “2G” rule – allowing in only the vaccinated and the recovered – will be introduced in areas with a hospitalisation rate of more than three Covid patients per 100,000 people, she said, and will apply to large events as well as culture and sports facilities.

Further restrictions will be put in place when the hospitalisation rate increases.

READ MORE: 2G and 2G plus: Germany to tighten restrictions on the unvaccinated

“We need to quickly put a brake on the exponential rise” in cases and intensive care bed occupancy, Merkel added, calling the situation “highly dramatic”.

“With the current dynamics, we are running into a very, very difficult situation, especially for all the people who work in hospitals and especially in intensive care.”

The German government and states also agreed to require healthcare workers and employees in care homes to get vaccinated against coronavirus

“We must protect the most vulnerable groups,” state leaders and the government said in a policy statement, adding that “it is necessary for employees” in institutions like hospitals or elderly and care homes, and those going door-to-door to provide care “be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus”.

After a strong push in the spring, Germany’s inoculation rate had stagnated over the summer to hover at just under 70 percent.

The outgoing chancellor urged more Germans to get vaccinated, saying bluntly that “many measures that now have to be taken would not have been necessary if we had more vaccinated people”.

“We need a really big effort here,” Merkel added.

At the joint meeting, Merkel said, they had “agreed on a very large catalogue of measures” to counter the fourth wave.

SPD candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was at the crunch talks warned of difficult winter months ahead.

“We will see drastic measures that have not been seen before,” he said.

Scholz urged anyone who hasn’t been jabbed to get vaccinated, saying: “Everyone should make an effort.”

Despite infections soaring in recent weeks, politicians have been accused of inaction and of focusing their attention instead on negotiations to form Germany’s next government after elections in September.

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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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