Berlin The Corona situation remains tense: The recent infection rates indicate a slight easing, but how safe is that? In addition, there is a new type of virus. No easing of measures is in sight for the time being.
In view of the still critical Corona situation, people in Germany must be prepared for longer everyday restrictions into February.
This could include new requirements for more protective masks and working from home, as was made clear before consultations between Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the state premiers this Tuesday. The aim must be to get back to "a manageable level" of infection figures more quickly than would be possible under the current situation, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday. A new, probably much more contagious variant of the virus is also causing acute concern.
Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said in Berlin: "It is better if we now pull together for the next two, three, maybe four weeks to bring the numbers down significantly." In terms of infection figures and the utilisation of intensive care units, he said, there have recently been declines. But one has to be cautious, he said. "After all, we were already on the way down a few weeks ago, and then the next wave was already building up again." This should therefore not be taken as a sign to let up, but rather as "encouragement to continue all the more concretely and consistently." The goal remains to be able to trace and interrupt infection chains.
Before the federal-state consultations, it became apparent that the already tightened lockdown would run longer - so far, the measures have been agreed until the end of January. According to Rhineland-Palatinate's Minister President Malu Dreyer (SPD), the SPD state leaders want to propose an extension until February 14 if economic aid also comes more quickly. Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) told the Münchner Merkur (Tuesday): "We must extend the lockdown until mid-February." Nationwide, the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days is now 134, as announced by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The peak was 197.6 on Dec. 22, and the goal of the federal and state governments is a level below 50.
Various measures have been discussed to further contain the spread of the virus. These include more extensive requirements to wear FFP2 masks in buses, trains and stores, for example. As Spahn said, after a comparison with data from health insurance companies, 34.1 million people from Corona risk groups can now get FFP2 masks financed by the federal government - initially 27 million had been expected according to estimates. But even surgical masks, which cost only pennies, already protect more than everyday masks made of fabric, Spahn said.
Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) announced that stricter rules on the subject of home offices would also be discussed. He referred to newly enacted legal possibilities to now issue certain regulations. "This actually concerns binding rules with regard to the possibility of home office as an offer to employees wherever this is operationally possible." Thuringia's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (Left Party) told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur that it must be ensured that every company is also enabled to have its employees tested.
Tobias Hans, Prime Minister of the Saarland, referred to the new virus mutation. Action must be taken in good time before it also spreads massively in Germany - as it has in Great Britain, the CDU politician told dpa. "Against this background, we must not take any risks now and hastily relax again." Positive corona tests are to be examined more systematically in the future for the exact type of virus. Laboratories that carry out such "sequencing" are to be paid to transmit data to the RKI under a new federal regulation from Tuesday.
Parents who have to take time off from work because of corona-related restrictions at daycare centers and schools are to be able to use so-called children's sick days for this purpose in the future. The number of sick days per parent will also be doubled from 10 to 20. Single parents will receive 40 days instead of the usual 20. After the Bundestag, the Bundesrat also gave its final approval to the corresponding plans in a special session on Monday.
Original text: (dpa)
Translation: Mareike Graepel