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Climbing infection rates: Will there be a hard lockdown before Christmas?

Climbing infection rates : Will there be a hard lockdown before Christmas?

Will the German states take new emergency measures before Christmas to fight the spread of coronavirus? The chairman of the Conference of State Premiers anticipates a hard lockdown starting next weekend.

Germany is heading for a hard lockdown, beginning before Christmas and lasting for three weeks.

Berlin's mayor, Michael Müller (SPD), who is also chairman of the Conference of State Premiers, said it was becoming apparent, also in talks with colleagues in the other German states, "that there will be significant restrictions from the 20th" and that the retail sector would be "clearly" scaled down. The school vacations will have started by then anyway, many people would no longer be going to work and local transport would be quieter. "Between Dec. 20 and Jan. 10, we will have practically three weeks of massive restrictions, which will also certainly lead to incidence rates going down," Müller said on the ZDF program "Markus Lanz."

Müller expressed the expectation that the Conference of State Premiers will agree to shut down public life as far as possible during these three weeks. Even states with lower infection rates acknowledged that this was a nationwide crisis and solidarity was needed. The urgent appeals by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) have been very effective.

Several state premiers had called for a common line among the German states. Schleswig-Holstein's Prime Minister Daniel Günther (CDU) said Thursday that he expects the federal government and the states to consult on Sunday. “Spiegel" also reported that the states want to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) on Sunday.

Lower Saxony's head of government Stephan Weil (SPD) gave a similar time frame as Müller. "I assume between Dec. 19 and Jan. 10 we will have a very, very quiet period in Germany in general. And that has to be," Weil said in a program on ZDF television. On Thursday, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's State Premier Manuela Schwesig (SPD) also spoke out in favor of closing retail stores - with the exception of grocery stores - as early as the fourth week of Advent.

Rhineland-Palatinate's State Premier Malu Dreyer (SPD) said on the ZDF program "Maybrit Illner": "I think we also have to be really strict at Christmas, and definitely also on New Year's Eve." Franziska Giffey (SPD) of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, said in the "Rheinische Post" (Friday) that she recommended for citizens to "meet only in the smallest circles and otherwise refrain as much as possible from visiting relatives over the holidays."

In the same broadcast, German Economics Minister Peter Altmaier expressed concern about current developments. "Exponential growth is kicking in again. And that means we have to act urgently." The CDU politician added: "We have to take more action than was previously planned." At the same time, Altmaier said that in terms of the latest statistics on Covid-19, what he had heard in the evening "does not bode well" for the reports that would come out Friday morning. On Thursday morning, the Robert Koch Institute had reported the highest number of Covid-19 cases within 24 hours: 23,679.

SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach urged for action to be taken quickly. "To have a hard lockdown start only after Christmas would be too little and too late. We need this nationwide, ideally the hardest lockdown possible, including school closures, as early as next week," he told the Rheinische Post newspaper. In an interview with the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), the president of the German Medical Association, Klaus Reinhardt, warned: "In view of the current very high death rate and an ongoing heavy burden in the hospitals, we must reduce contacts quickly and significantly."

Retailers are worried about Christmas sales. In “Welt”, Stefan Genth, CEO of the German Retail Association (HDE), called for compensation if stores would have to close - similar to the situation with restaurants in November and December. Otherwise, there would be drastic consequences for the city centers.

A whole series of German states have already adopted strict measures. Relaxations of contact restrictions planned for the period from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1 have already been tightened again in some states.

(Orig. text: German Press Agency. Translation: ck)