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Corona Pandemic: Relaxations in sight: Opening steps

Corona Pandemic : Relaxations in sight: Opening steps

The lockdown is wearing on nerves, the pressure for some sort of relaxation of the measures is growing. The federal and state governments must respond on Wednesday. But there is obviously still no agreement on important details.

After months of Corona lockdown in Germany, there are signs that further steps will be taken to open up the market.

However, these are dependent on regional infection rates and are provided with an "emergency brake". This emerges from a preliminary draft resolution for the federal-state meeting this Wednesday, which has the status Monday 19.10 clock and is reportedly not yet coordinated with all states. Numerous opening possibilities are linked also with mass rapid tests. In principle, the lockdown is also to be extended until March 28 because of the danger posed by the new virus variants.

Many sectors, including sports clubs and associations, have recently called for an end to the lockdown. Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) had also said that he considered relaxations with appropriate concepts as early as March to be justifiable. Individual state premiers put the brakes on. For example, Winfried Kretschmann (Greens), head of the state of Baden-Württemberg, does not see any quick opening steps at the moment - first of all, the infrastructure for mass rapid and self-testing must be in place, he said. North Rhine-Westphalia's Minister President Armin Laschet (CDU) advocated cautious openings. One of the biggest points of conflict in the upcoming consultation between the state premiers and Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) is likely to be which incidence values are required for which opening steps.

The draft paper for the federal-state meeting, which was first reported by "Business Insider", was drawn up by a group from the Chancellor's Office, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the states of Berlin and Bavaria. However, it is still constantly changing, it said Tuesday. Negotiations had not been concluded, final decisions were not expected until talks on Wednesday afternoon. The following steps were initially planned:

CONTACTS: Already from next week meetings of a household with another household could be possible again, limited to a maximum of five people. Currently, one is allowed to meet only with a person not living in the household. From a certain number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week, even more generous rules should be possible: meetings with two other households, maximum ten people. However, it is still unclear at what seven-day incidence this should apply. Over Easter - similar to Christmas - visits of relatives in a somewhat larger circle could become possible again.

GARDEN MARKETS AND DIY SHOPS: In some countries, DIY stores are already open, in others not. This is to become more uniform: The draft would allow bookstores, flower stores and garden markets to open with hygiene concepts and a limit on people. The same could apply to so-called close contact services and driving schools but only with Corona test.

RETAIL: At a stable incidence below 35, retail could reopen with a limit on the number of customers. Above an incidence level that has yet to be determined, at least "click and meet" could be allowed, meaning shopping by appointment booking and with contact tracking. But on this point, among others, there is still considerable need for negotiation, it was said.

MUSEUMS AND ZOOS: Museums, galleries, zoos and botanical gardens, as well as memorials, could reopen with a level above a value of 35 - above an incidence yet to be determined, at least with prior appointment booking.

GASTRONOMY: Outdoor areas of restaurants, according to the draft, should only open when the incidence remains stable below 35 for 14 days. However, above a level that has yet to be determined, diners could at least dine with appointment booking. Tests would be mandatory when people from multiple households are seated at the same table.

SPORT: Sport could also be allowed again from incidence level 35 in small groups of no more than ten people. However, only outdoors and non-contact, such as fitness or jogging together, but no soccer or basketball. Above an infection level still to be defined, at least jogging and fitness in pairs and, for children, sports in small groups outside could be permitted. Non-contact sports indoors, such as at the gym, and contact sports outdoors are not envisioned by the draft until the incidence in the region remains stable at less than 35 for 14 days - again, could be relaxed earlier with daily updated tests.

THEATRE, CONCERT HOUSES, CINEMAS: These cultural services could also be provided on a regular basis only when the incidence remains stable below 35. According to the draft, this could possibly happen earlier with tests.

EMERGENCY STOP: In principle, a kind of emergency stop is provided for. Should the incidence climb back above a certain level on several consecutive days, the current lockdown rules would immediately come into force again - automatically and without an extra resolution. The threshold for this, however, is still open.

SCHOOLS: The education ministers of the federal states announced that the alternating or face-to-face teaching started at elementary schools is to be extended to additional grades. This is to apply "provided the infection situation continues to allow it." Dates are not given.

FURTHER RELEASES: According to the draft resolution, further relaxations, for example for indoor areas of restaurants, for events, travel and the hotel industry, will not be discussed until the next federal-state meeting. The date scheduled is March 24.

The 35 limit for relaxations across the board, which was advised at the last federal-state meeting, could now be abandoned - if much more testing is done. Regular corona testing represented "an important building block to enable more normality and safe contacts," the draft says. Laschet stressed that "test, test, test" is the message now, along with vaccination. "Because we will need millions of tests and self-tests in Germany in the coming months to live with the virus, to live with the pandemic," the CDU leader said.

The federal government and state premiers also wanted to talk with industry representatives about expanding testing in companies. According to the draft, companies could be required to offer their on premises employees at least one or even two free rapid tests per week. The states may possibly ensure that staff in schools and daycare centers "as well as all pupils" are offered at least one or two free rapid tests per attendance week. And all other citizens should also be offered one or two free rapid tests per week, for example at test centers or doctors' offices, according to the report.

Original text: (dpa)

Translation: Mareike Graepel