Doctors and nurses at the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH) in Kiel campaigning for residents to stay at home to protect themselves and others in April 2020. The university teaching of hospital is one of the centres of excellence in the ongoing battle against the coronavirus pandemic in Germany. Scientists say the best way to contain the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid unnecessary physical contact with other persons/Photo: UKSH

Germany adopts new containment measures as COVID-19 new cases spike

The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Germany. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country’s centre for public disease control and prevention, reported a new record of 7,334 new infections within one day on Friday (16 October). A day earlier, 6,638 new cases were registered in the country, the highest figure since the beginning of the pandemic.

In view of rising corona infection rates, government wants to react faster and more decisively to the spread of the virus. The chancellor and state premiers agreed on new uniform rules for cities and regions with high infection rates at an emergency meeting in Berlin on Wednesday. 

In concrete terms, the Chancellor and the Minister Presidents agreed on the following measures:

Stricter measures should already kick in a region when the threshold of 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within one week is reached. Here, celebrations with family and friends are to be limited to 25 participants in public places and 15 in private premises. In addition, “a supplementary obligation to wear masks should be introduced where people come together more closely and/or for longer periods”. In addition, a closing hour is recommended for bars and restaurants.

Hotspot rules: Regions with rapidly increasing number of cases, where 50 or more new infections per 100,000 inhabitants are recorded in one week, will continue to be considered a risk area. Here the Federal States (Länder) are to take “consistently tougher local restriction measures”. These include extensions of the obligation to wear a mouth-nose cover, contact restrictions in public places to a maximum of ten people and the mandatory introduction of a curfew at 11 pm for bars and restaurants. In addition, there are “further binding restrictions on the number of participants at celebrations to ten in a public area and to ten participants from a maximum of two households in a private premise”.

Ultimatum: The Federal Government and the Federal States set themselves and the population a deadline: if the nationwide increase in infection figures “does not come to a halt within ten days at the latest, further targeted restriction measures are unavoidable in order to further reduce public contacts”. In a first step, contacts in public places would only be permitted for a group of no more than five people or members of two households.

Travel within Germany: The restrictions on domestic holidaymakers are particularly controversial in the public debate if they come from a risk area with more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in one week. In many federal states they are only allowed to stay overnight in hotels, pensions and vacation homes if they can show a negative test result. The Federal Government and the State Governments have not found a common line on this so-called ban on accommodation. The regulations of the federal states would be “reassessed” at the end of the autumn holidays on 8 November. However, the Federal and State Governments “urge all citizens to avoid unnecessary inner-German travel” to and from high-risk areas.

Contact Tracing: The Federal Government and the State Governments emphasised that the tracking of contacts of detected corona infected persons remain key to containing the spread of the infection. To this end, the federal, state and local administrations are to support the public health service with personnel. In addition, the Bundeswehr could help with up to 15,000 troops within a few weeks.

Sola Jolaoso

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