FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian Federal State Premier Markus Soeder attend a news conference on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) following video consultations with the premiers of Germany’s 16 federal states, in Berlin, Germany, November 16, 2020. Odd Andersen/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Germany is looking to impose tougher restrictions on movement after a nationwide partial shutdown failed to bring contagion rates down to manageable levels.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff called for a meeting between the federal government and heads of the country’s 16 states, which could be convened before Christmas, to decide on a plan.
“Because a lockdown of this kind doesn’t work in the long run, we have to really tighten things up again, at least in the hot spots,” Helge Braun, said in an online interview with Bild newspaper.
Germany shut restaurants, gyms and cinemas, but allowed schools and most of the economy to keep running as it tried a softer approach than other European countries. The measures — in place since the beginning of November — have made little impact on the spread of the disease, even as the government spends more than 15 billion euros ($18 billion) a month to compensate affected businesses.
Braun favors a return to distance learning for older school children in areas with contagion rates of more than 200 cases per 100,000 people over seven days. With contact restrictions similar to France and Belgium, Germany could lower the spread to levels that don’t threaten to overwhelm the health-care system “within three weeks,” he said.
The nationwide seven-day incidence rate currently stands at 146.2, compared with 120.1 at the start of the restrictions on Nov. 2, according to the Robert Koch Institute. The government’s goal is to lower the level to less than 50. Schleswig-Holstein in the north and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the east are the only German states under that level.
“Corona isn’t letting go and therefore we need to react,” Markus Soeder, Bavaria’s premier, said on ARD television on Monday. “I’m sure we’ll meet again before Christmas. The current system isn’t enough.”
The home state of Siemens AG, BMW AG and Adidas AG will implement a state of emergency on Wednesday, restricting most people to their homes unless they have a valid reason. In communities with a seven-day incidence of more than 200, there will be a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. with even fewer exceptions.
Germany’s new coronavirus cases rose by 10,910 in the 24 hours to Monday morning, taking the total to 1.19 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There were 150 new fatalities on Monday, lifting the overall number of deaths to 18,989.
The so-called reproduction factor, an indicator of how fast the virus is spreading, rose to 1.21 on Sunday, compared to 1.13 the day before. This means that 100 people with the virus will likely infect 121 others. The government has said a level below one is needed to prevent the illness from overwhelming hospitals. The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has been at record levels for weeks.
“One can and must say that the measures we’ve taken so far haven’t been sufficient to really break the second wave of infections,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Monday in Berlin. Because of the rising incidence rates and the R-factor, “I am convinced that we will have to conduct very, very intensive counseling in the next few days and weeks.”
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