Facing intense criticism for not having a sufficiently fast vaccination campaign, German authorities are extending and tightening its restrictions until at least January 31.
A second wave that seems to be more deadly than the first one seems to be appearing across the country, and Germany will thus tighten its measures. While 16,000 people died from Covid-19 across the Rhine in December —as many as between March and November— Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Tuesday, during a press conference, that nurseries, schools and non-essential shops would remain closed until at least January 31.
In addition to these measures, which have been in effect since mid-December, two more will be implemented. The first is the restriction of travel to a radius of 15 kilometers around the home in the “Landkreise” (districts) where the incidence rate is above 200 per 100,000 inhabitants. Most of them are in the east of the country, especially in Saxony and Thuringia, as well as in Bavaria, in the south. The second is a ban on having more than one person from outside one’s own household in one’s home. Previously, the threshold was set at five people from two different households.
“We have to reduce our social contacts even further,” Merkel said after a video conference lasting more than four hours with the minister presidents of the country’s 16 Länder. The Chancellor cited the British “variant” of Covid-19, which is highly contagious and requires particular vigilance, as well as the challenging situation currently faced by German hospitals. On Tuesday, the country’s intensive care units had nearly 6,000 Covid-19 patients, twice as many as at the peak of the first wave in April.
During her press conference, Merkel also addressed the issue of vaccines, as increased criticism has been appearing in Germany linked to the perceived slow start of the vaccination campaign. Since December 27, about 317,000 people have received a first dose of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine in the country.