In view of the persistently high coronavirus infection figures, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Premiers of the 16 federal states agreed on new tough lockdown measures at an emergency meeting on Sunday. The imposition of stricter restriction rules, which will apply from 16 December until 10 January, is Germany’s latest desperate move to prevent infection rates from spinning out of control over the Christmas holidays and overwhelming the country’s health system.
In view of persistently high corona infection figures, the federal and state governments have decided on a shutdown from Wednesday, which will last until 10 January.
The health system is under great strain, warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while addressing a news conference after meeting with the state premiers. The goal is to bring the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants to a maximum of 50 within seven days to make contact tracing possible again, she said.
Here’s an overview of the new rules:
Contacts, Christmas, New Year’s Eve
Private gatherings with friends, relatives and acquaintances are still to be limited to one’s own household and one other household, but in any case to a maximum of 5 persons. Children up to 14 years of age are excluded from this rule.
An exception applies at Christmas: From 24 to 26 December, four people from the “close family circle” (plus children up to the age of 14) may be added to one’s household – even if the upper limit of five people is then exceeded. According to the government, the “close family circle” includes: “spouses, civil partners and partners in a non-marital partnership as well as relatives in a straight line, siblings, sibling children and their respective household members”.
Chancellor Merkel, however, urged that contacts be kept to a minimum during five to seven days before the family gatherings.
On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, a ban on arrivals and gatherings will be implemented nationwide.
In addition, there will be a ban on fireworks in public places. The sale of pyrotechnics before New Year’s Eve is generally prohibited this year. The setting off of New Year’s Eve fireworks is strongly discouraged, especially against the background of the high risk of injury and the already enormous burden on the health system.
Schools and day-care centres
Children are to be cared for at home whenever possible during this period. Therefore, schools will generally be closed or compulsory attendance will be suspended during this period. Emergency care will be provided and distance learning will be offered. Separate arrangements may be made for final-year classes.The federal states are to regulate the details.
The same procedure is to be followed in day-care centres. Parents should be given the opportunity to take paid leave to look after their children during this period.
Retail shops will be closed from 16 December to 10 January. Explicitly excluded are shops for daily needs, such as food and drinks, as well as some specialised shops and markets, which are allowed to open. These are:
- Grocery shops and weekly food markets
- pick-up and delivery services
- Drinks markets
- Health food shops
- Speciality baby markets
- Pharmacies, medical supply stores and drugstores
- Opticians and hearing aid acousticians
- Petrol stations, garages and bicycle repair shops
- Banks and savings banks
- Post offices
- Dry cleaners and launderettes
- Newspaper sales
- Pet supplies and feed stores
- Christmas tree sales
Sales of non-food products in grocery stores may also be restricted.
Personal Care Services
Personal care services such as hairdressing salons, barber shops, beauty salons and massage parlours must close.
Medically necessary treatments, for example, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and logotherapy as well as foot care are allowed.
The collection or delivery of food by caterers and the operation of canteens should also remain possible. The drinking of alcohol in public spaces is prohibited during the shutdown. Fines may be imposed.
Employers are urged to close their premises throughout the company holidays or offer generous home office solutions to their employees.
Services in churches, synagogues and mosques as well as gatherings of other faith communities are permitted if the minimum distance of 1.5 metres is maintained, masks are compulsory and congregational singing is prohibited.
Old people’s and nursing homes
Special protective measures are to be taken for old people’s and nursing homes as well as mobile care services. The federal government is to provide support in the form of medical protective masks and assume the costs for rapid antigen tests.
In addition, the federal states are to order regular compulsory testing for workers in the care sector. In regions with an increased incidence of infection, proof of a current negative coronavirus test should become mandatory for visitors.
Local restriction measures
In the case of particularly extreme infection situations, the comprehensive general measures are to be expanded again in order to achieve a significant reduction in the incidence of infection in the short term. According to the hotspot strategy, additional restriction measures may be immediately implemented regionally in areas where an incidence of more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week is recorded.
On Sunday, Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s centre for disease control and prevention, reported 20,200 new infections and 321 fatalities. The number is less than Friday’s record of 29,875 cases.
The country’s intensive care unit capacity is also at a critical level, and doctors have warned that only five to 10% of intensive care beds are available in some parts of the country.
You can read the full text (in German) of the Federal Government’s decision here