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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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.