Düsseldorf Although NRW is tightening up some measures as a result of the third coronavirus wave, the previously agreed upon “emergency brake” will actually be eased somewhat. In the tighter lockdown, there are exceptions this time - for people with negative tests.
Despite the rapidly rising number of Covid-19 cases since Monday, North Rhine-Westphalia will use the “emergency brake” only in municipalities with a particularly high incidence rate. At the same time, however, the affected counties and cities may allow exceptions for people who test negative on any given day. This was announced by Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) on Friday.
The affected municipalities with a weekly incidence rate above 100 have a choice: Either they can close stores, sports facilities, cultural venues and other places as outlined in the “emergency brake” guidelines or they can allow people with negative test results to enter these places under certain conditions. The Covid-19 test must be confirmed in writing or digitally by an approved testing center and must be carried on person as proof. Contact restrictions at Easter will also be eased somewhat.
Laumann expressed confidence that the affected municipalities would be very interested in a concept to open up stores and other institutions again using a test-based system. The federal and state governments only decided on Monday that the "emergency brake" would have to be strictly applied in order to put a stop to the rise in infection rates. The "emergency brake" means that openings of retail outlets, museums, zoos or sports facilities must be reversed if the seven-day incidence rate in a state or region rises above 100 for three consecutive days.
NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) had announced several times that the corona “emergency brake” would be implemented "one-to-one" in NRW. Just a few days ago, he gave the impression that there would be a statewide implementation of the “emergency brake”. After the much-criticized government meeting at the beginning of the week, however, Laschet said that they would have to open a new chapter in the fight against coronavirus. He said that just closing down places had reached its limits.
In NRW, the weekly incidence rate has been above 100 for several days. By Friday, it had risen to 121.6, according to figures from the Landeszentrum Gesundheit (LZG). More than 30 municipalities were above the 100 level, and five districts and cities were even above 200. Only about 16 municipalities had an incidence rate below 100, in some cases only by a narrow margin. The lowest incidence rates were reported in Höxter (58.5) and Münster (59.6).
Even in high-incidence areas with rates over 200, the testing option is possible, Laumann said. There are now almost 5,000 approved testing centers in NRW, he said. People should also be given "a practical incentive" to get tested, he added. This could help in early detection of those who have Covid-19 but are asymptomatic. "We will have to live with the virus for a long time," Laumann said.
OPENING WITH TEST OPTION: With a negative test, people in the affected communities could go back to stores, zoos etc. providing they have booked an appointment. Also allowed would be access to libraries, museums, exhibitions, memorials and body-related services such as cosmetics. However, mandatory masks, social distancing and disinfecting requirements remain in place. The new Corona Protection Ordinance is in effect starting Monday and runs through April 18.
HAIR SALONS: Hair salons and podiatrist services are not covered by the Corona Emergency Brake. They will remain open. According to Laumann, a negative test is not necessary in communities with an incidence rate above 100.
GASTRONOMY: Restaurants will remain closed. According to Laumann, the test option does not extend to the restaurant industry. He referred to more extensive opening concepts that could be possible within the framework of “planned model regions”. It is not yet clear which regions these will be.
CONTACT RESTRICTIONS: Over the Easter weekend, contact restrictions will be relaxed, even in regions with high incidence rates. From Maundy Thursday through Easter Monday (April 1-5), five people from two households are allowed to meet up, regardless of local infection rates, the Corona Protection Ordinance states. Children 14 and younger are not included in this count. Except for Easter, however, in communities with an incidence rate above 100, people from one household are only allowed to meet with one other person in public spaces.
FESTIVALS: Large events such as folk festivals or similar are prohibited in NRW until at least May 31.
TANNING STUDIOS: As of March 29, tanning salons are allowed to open in NRW. As with other body-related services, the “emergency brake” guidelines must be observed.
SWIMMING LESSONS: NRW allows swimming lessons for children again under certain conditions. As of Monday, courses for swimming beginners and toddlers may be held again - but with a maximum of five children per group.
REACTIONS: The retail industry reacted with relief. “At first, we are glad that our suggestion has been followed and that the regional infection rate is being used as a benchmark instead of a state average," said Peter Achten, chief executive of the NRW trade association.
(Orig. text: dpa, Translation: Carol Kloeppel)