Berlin In Germany, there are many different regulations to curb the coronavirus pandemic and these are often subject to criticism. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state premiers met on Thursday about how to proceed. While they did not find one hundred percent agreement, they did reach consensus on this: There will be no easing of the regulations.
Out of concern about rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, German federal and state governments have rejected any easing of the measures introduced to curb coronavirus and in some cases the plans are to make them even tougher.
In 15 of the 16 German states, for example, they agreed on a minimum fine of 50 euros for those who don’t wear a mask as required - only Saxony-Anhalt will be exempt and will not participate. This was agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the premiers of the German states in a video conference lasting several hours on Thursday. "We take this increase in these summer months very seriously," Merkel emphasized. Bavaria's Minister-President Markus Söder (CSU) said: "The figures are too high too soon".
The Chancellor and the heads of state governments are particularly concerned about events in private and family circles, which are regarded as one of the main causes of the rising numbers of infections. Here, the federal and state governments could not agree on a limit for the number of participants. Merkel underscored, however, that private events would continue to be of concern at federal and state levels.
Much was permitted in the summer, including travel. "But we also see where we need to be alert. And these are high-risk areas, these are private events," she continued. The federal and state governments are now responding to the new findings from the summer.
Söder warned: "Corona is back in full swing in Germany, so we must rise to this challenge. The rising number of cases is strongly related to people returning from vacation and family visits abroad - "and the growing carelessness and foolishness because of various parties". Hamburg's head of government Peter Tschentscher (SPD) said: "We are all very much in agreement that we are still in a stable situation, but that we have very difficult months ahead of us".
The federal and state governments agreed on these points:
WEARING A MASK: People who do not wear nose and mouth protection as required will face a minimum fine of 50 euros. Bavaria's head of government, Markus Söder (CSU), declared that he would stick with the much tougher fine of 250 euros in his own state. In other states such as North Rhine-Westphalia, people also face fines higher than 50 euros. Saxony-Anhalt, according to State Premier Reiner Haseloff (CDU), does not want to impose a fine at all. He justified this by saying that the people in his state adhere to the measures to curb the corona pandemic. The federal and state transport ministers are also looking at how to enable ticket controllers to impose a surcharge (that would essentially act as a fine) for those not wearing a mask on all modes of regional and long-distance public transport.
TRAVEL RETURNEES FROM NON HIGH-RISK AREAS: Free testing for travelers returning from non high-rick areas will end on September 15. This coincides with the end of the summer holidays. It was reasoned that the number of positive cases in these returnees was extremely low.
TRAVEL RETURNEES FROM HIGH-RISK AREAS: Travel to areas which have been identified as high-risk should be avoided as much as possible. But there is a change for these travelers when it comes to quarantine and testing, and the aim is to implement it from October 1. The new measure will require travelers from high-risk areas to go directly into quarantine at home for 14 days. But after five days at the earliest, if they get tested and receive a negative test result, the quarantine can be ended. The government is still trying to determine who will have to pay for the testing. Workers will not be compensated for the days they have to remain in quarantine.
Agreements are being sought with countries considered to be high-risk in which testing would be done before the return trip to prevent infected persons from returning home. The German government is working feverishly to develop an electronic entry form in order to digitalize the registration process all the way to the local health authorities.
CARING FOR SICK CHILDREN: Citizens with public health insurance entitled to child health care benefits will be given an extra five days to care for a sick child this year. Single parents are to receive ten additional days for this. The federal government will regulate this by law. Every effort should be made to ensure that attendance at a school with good hygiene concepts or - where this is not possible - a reliable homeschooling program is offered.
MAJOR EVENTS: At major events where contact tracking and compliance with hygiene measures is not possible, they will remain prohibited until at least the end of December 2020. A task force will be set up to ensure a uniform approach in how spectators are handled at nationwide sporting events. A proposal is to be submitted by the end of October. This means that the German Football League will start its season in September with empty spectator stands. A longer-term ban on spectators would have a severe impact on the top clubs in handball, basketball and ice hockey, among others.
PRIVATE EVENTS: When it comes to events attended by families and friends, the German states and federal government could not come to an agreement on a maximum number of participants. Citizens are asked to critically consider each individual case and whether, how and to what extent these events are necessary and justifiable. Events should preferably be held outdoors. When held in closed rooms, sufficient ventilation must always be ensured. A maximum number of participants for private events should be determined based on the number/intensity of cases in the region.
Merkel rejected an extension of the reduced VAT rate beyond the end of the year. It will end on December 31, 2020, she said. At that time, citizens can look forward to the reduction of the solidarity tax (imposed after German reunification) - this will be eliminated for around 90 percent of taxpayers at the beginning of 2021.
The number of new cases per day in Germany, which at times was well below 1,000, has risen again in recent weeks. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), early Thursday morning, 1,507 new corona infections were reported. The day before, there were 1,576. On Saturday, 2,034 new cases were reported, passing the 2,000 mark for the first time since the end of April. Virologists assume that the upcoming cooler season will provide favorable conditions for the spread of the virus.
In her meetings with the state premiers, Merkel’s goal was to adopt a coordinated but also regionally adapted response. In recent weeks, there had been growing criticism of regulations, some which differ considerably, for example when it comes to the start of school, private events or major events in the various states. The last time Chancellor Merkel and the heads of state governments discussed measures to curb the corona pandemic was on June 17.
(Orig. text: dpa; Translation: ck)