Saxony state premier calls for Covid ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown

The state premier of Saxony Michael Kretschmer says he is considering sweeping closures of bars, clubs and other venues to slow down the Covid spread - but avoided using the word 'lockdown'.

Saxony state leader Michael Kretschmer on November 18th.
Saxony state leader Michael Kretschmer on November 18th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Shortly before the federal-state Covid summit on Thursday, Kretschmer called for a “hard breakwater” of two or three weeks in view of the rising Covid infections and hospitalisations. 

Kretschmer avoided using the word lockdown – but the proposal sounds like what has previously been called a ‘circuit-breaker’ type lockdown.

According to the Leipziger Volkszeitung, the plans for Saxony were discussed at a meeting of the CDU parliamentary party executive on Wednesday evening.

The report said Kretschmer wants to see the closure of bars and clubs, as well as a general ban on large events. Closures in the cultural and leisure sector are also being discussed. It is still unclear whether restaurants could remain open.

Details are to be decided by the cabinet on Friday, reported Tagesschau. 

Kretschmer said that it was also necessary to wait for the Bundestag and the Bundesrat to pass their resolutions on the Infection Protection Act. 

The Bundestag passed the law on Thursday, which is backed by the SPD, Greens and the FDP. On Friday, the Bundesrat will vote on it. 

READ MORE Political row snags German bid to tame Covid surge

Saxony reported a 7-day incidence of 761.4 Covid infections per 100,000 residents on Thursday – the highest infection rate nationwide, ahead of Bavaria (609.5) and Thuringia (565.0).

“This shows once again that urgent action is needed,” Kretschmer said.

Saxony also has the lowest vaccination rate in Germany with 57.6 percent of the population fully vaccinated against Covid. 

Nationwide, 67.8 percent of the German population is fully vaccinated. 

Saxony’s hospital coordinator Michael Albrecht called for a 14-day lockdown to slow the Covid spread down.

“My personal recommendation would be: do a total lockdown for 14 days now,” he said. “Let us catch our breath, let us see how the development of the case numbers then weaken.”

It comes as state leaders and Chancellor Angela Merkel discuss Covid restrictions for winter. 

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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.