Berlin Despite the partial lockdown in Germany, the daily number of coronavirus infections and deaths demonstrate the effects of the second wave. The federal and state governments are now hitting the emergency brake. The ineffective partial lockdown is turning into a more far-reaching full lockdown.
Public and private life in Germany will be drastically shut down from Wednesday to try to contain the corona pandemic which continues to spread rapidly. On Sunday Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the federal ministers decided that non-essential shops will have to close from 16 December to 10 January. During this period, schools are also to be closed or compulsory attendance suspended. Over Christmas, the strict contact restrictions will be relaxed for family celebrations, but not at New Year.
The sharp curbs are the result of the worsening situation in recent weeks. On Sunday morning, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 20,200 new corona infections and 321 new deaths. On Sunday a week ago, there had been 17,767 new cases and 255 deaths. Last Friday the previous record of new infections (29,875) and deaths (598) was reached. Merkel assumed that the numbers would initially continue to rise.
North Rhine-Westphalia's Minister President Armin Laschet (CDU) does not rule out an extension of the tough corona regulations beyond 10 January. There will be further measures after that date if necessary, Laschet said, following telephone consultations between the federal and state governments in Düsseldorf. He said that everything is being done now in order to reduce the corona numbers by then.
The partial lockdown in place since the beginning of November had "not been enough", Merkel said followinggelten the consultations of the federal and state governments in Berlin. The exponential growth of new corona infections could be stopped for a while, but then, however, there was a "sideways movement", and for a few days now there has been exponential growth again. "We are forced to act and we are acting now," said the Chancellor.
"Corona is out of control," warned Bavaria's head of government Markus Söder. "It is the 11th hour again, which is why we no longer want to do things by halves. We must act," emphasised the CSU leader. Now the rule is: "From Wednesday, a real lockdown in Germany, for everyone, consistent and clear to understand and apply." This is planned up to 10 January, he said, but must last for as long as necessary. "Corona does not adhere to the dates of the Ministers' Conferences. Corona does not take account of public holidays. Corona takes the leeway it is given." Looking ahead to the coming weeks, Söder said: "The philosophy is: stay at home!"
Berlin's head of government Michael Müller (SPD) stressed that "things are still possible" at Christmas. "But you don't have to do everything that is possible."
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) made it clear that the federal government wants to protect companies and jobs by extending the corona financial aid. Livelihoods are at stake, he said. The Vice-Chancellor spoke of comprehensive support, with additional aid amounting to around 11 billion euros per month. The German government has supported companies since the beginning of the crisis, said Scholz. He called the tough measures necessary: "The virus doesn't take a holiday."
The federal and state regulations are outlined in detail below:
RETAIL TRADE: Non-essential shops will be closed from 16 December to 10 January. Exceptions apply to grocery stores, weekly grocery markets, direct food sellers, collection and delivery services, drinks markets, health food stores, baby stores, chemists, medical supply stores, drugstores, opticians, hearing aid dispensers, petrol stations, car and bicycle repair shops, banks, post offices, dry cleaners, laundrettes, newspaper sales, pet supply stores, animal feed stores, Christmas tree sales and wholesale.
SERVICES: Personal care services such as hairdressers, cosmetic studios, massage practices, tattoo parlours and similar businesses will also be closed. Medical treatment remains possible, for example physiotherapy, occupational therapy, logotherapy and podiatry.
FINANCIAL AID: The federal government is expanding the corona financial aid for businesses. The maximum amount of the Überbrückungshilfe III (Bridging Aid) which applies from January is to be increased from 200,000 to 500,000 euros. The maximum amount is accordingly planned for businesses that are directly and indirectly affected by closures. Fixed operating costs will be reimbursed. Advance payments will be made, similar to the November and December support. Relief for the retail sector is also planned.
SOCIAL CONTACTS: A maximum of five relatives, friends or acquaintances from a maximum of two households may meet privately. Children up to 14 years of age are excluded.
CHRISTMAS: Depending on infection rates, the states will allow exceptions to this restriction between 24 and 26 December. Celebrations with the "immediate family" are allowed, even if this means more than two households or five people over 14 years of age. The immediate family is defined as spouses, civil partners and non-married partners, as well as first degree relatives, siblings, the children of siblings and their respective household members.
NEW YEAR: There is a nationwide ban on gatherings and get-togethers on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. The sale of pyrotechnics is prohibited and setting off fireworks on New Year's Eve is strongly discouraged. In addition, fireworks are banned in public places - these are to be defined by the local authorities.
SCHOOLS: Contacts at schools are also to be significantly restricted from 16 December to 10 January. Schools and nurseries will be closed, or compulsory attendance will be suspended during this period. Emergency childcare will be provided, and distance learning will be offered. Separate arrangements may be made for final-year classes.
HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY: Alcohol consumption will be prohibited in public from 16 December to 10 January. Violators will be fined. Food for home consumption may be collected from or delivered by restaurants and eating establishments. Canteens are allowed to open but on-site consumption is prohibited.
CHURCH SERVICES: Religious services in churches, synagogues and mosques as well as meetings of other religious communities are only permitted if a minimum distance of 1.5 metres is maintained. A mask must be worn whilst seated. Visitors are not allowed to sing. Registration must be introduced for gatherings where visitor numbers are expected to reach capacity limits.
(Original text: dpa, Translation: Caroline Kusch)