Berlin Will schools and stores remain closed after January 10? In a few days, the German federal and state governments will decide whether to continue the lockdown. The goals which the government had set for reducing infection rates are still far from being met.
After a relatively quiet New Year's Eve, politicians are discussing a partial easing of the lockdown in Germany. But Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder dampened hopes that the restrictions would end soon.
"We simply have to bring down the numbers in a sustainable way. That's why I'm very skeptical about holding out the prospect of opening everything up again as early as Jan. 10," the CSU leader told the German Press Agency. Friedrich Merz, who is a candidate for the CDU presidency, said he would at least like to see the schools open as soon as possible.
In an interview with the newspapers of the Funke-Mediengruppe, Merz supported a call from Baden-Württemberg's Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs Susanne Eisenmann (CDU) to open schools. It was right to say "that schools must be reopened as soon as possible," commented Merz. "And it is indeed the political will of all parties to move in this direction, depending on the incidence rate." Eisenmann had called for day cares and primary schools to reopen as early as Jan. 11.
On January 5, the state premiers will consult with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) on how to proceed with the nationwide lockdown after January 10. The goal of the government is to reach an incidence rate of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days - but given the current figures, this is still a long way off.
On New Year's morning, the so-called seven-day incidence rate was 141.9. Health departments in Germany reported 22,924 new corona infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within 24 hours, along with 553 deaths. But it is difficult to interpret the data at this time because fewer people are likely to be tested during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and health departments may also be delayed in submitting their data.
Söder called for federal and state governments to continue their resolute efforts to combat the virus. He also said he didn’t know if their efforts would be viewed with gratitude come spring, but if they neglected to make a further decision now due to trepidation, then they will have failed in their mission. "What matters now is not finding the most convenient solution, but the most effective one," he said.
At the same time, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble warned that the federal and state governments should focus on allowing as much freedom as possible. "It is almost impossible to prevent every coronavirus death through laws," the CDU politician told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper. He said it is his fundamental belief that when it comes to balancing the protection of lives versus the negative effects of the rules in place to fight coronavirus, this is not something the government can completely solve through implementing regulations or laws. Rather, “that responsibility also lies in the hands of the medical profession, scientists and ethicists."
Meanwhile, a debate about the coronavirus vaccine also continues. Biontech CEO Ugur Sahin is trying to attract new partners to produce vaccines for Biontech, as he told Der Spiegel. "But it's not as if there are specialized factories sitting around unused all over the world that could produce vaccine of the necessary quality overnight." He said they would know at the end of January, as to whether and how much more can be produced.
The vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer was approved in the EU shortly before Christmas and has been administered for the last few days.There are no other coronavirus vaccines which have been approved for the EU so far. But it has already placed orders for vaccines from several manufacturers that still have their product in the development stages. "There was the assumption that many other companies would still come on the market with vaccines. Apparently, the impression was, 'We'll get enough, it won't be so bad, and we'll have it under control.' I was surprised by that," Sahin commented.
The parliamentary leader of the SPD faction, Carsten Schneider, called for a top-level meeting of the federal government with all pharmaceutical companies which manufacture in Germany. Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) needs to clarify "which manufacturing sites exist and can be put into use in the short term."
But Sahin emphasized the complexity of producing mRNA vaccines. "You can't just flip a switch and instead of producing aspirin or cough syrup, you're suddenly making vaccine. The process needs years of expertise and the appropriate structural and technological equipment."
Orig. text: German Press Agency