On Wednesday, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s state premiers announced it will enter a partial lockdown beginning Monday 2 November. The country plans to introduce a ‘lockdown light’, which will be similar to the measures taken in Germany during the first coronavirus wave, although not as intense.
According to the authorities, the intention is restrict contact in order to control the increasing number of infections and ensure that Germans can spend Christmas with their families. The impact of the new measures will be evaluated two weeks after their entry into force, and will then be updated accordingly.
Merkel stated in a press conference that, ‘We are in a very serious situation’, and that, ‘We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency.’ She also explained that the number of people in intensive care units doubled in the past 10 days, and that in many areas it was no longer possible to track and trace infection chains. In 75% of cases, the source of infection is unknown.
‘If infections continue at this rate, we will be at the limits of the capacities of our health system’ she said. ‘That is why this is a difficult day today, also for political decision-makers, I want to say this explicitly because we know what we are putting people through’.
Wednesday saw Germany’s highest rate of new daily infections yet, over 14,000, bringing the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country to 449,275. Latest figures also show that only around 25% of Germany’s intensive care beds are still available.
1. New restrictions
The new restrictions will be in place for at least the next month and include the following rules:
- Restaurants, bars and cafés will close, except for take-away
- Clubs and nightclubs will close
- Large events will be canceled again
- Unnecessary travel is strongly discouraged
- Overnight stays in hotels for tourist purposes is banned
- All those who can work from home should, and employers should facilitate this
- Families may only meet up if they do not exceed two households and are no more than 10 people
- Entertainment facilities such as theatres, opera houses, concert halls and cinemas will close
- Public recreation centres such as fitness centres, swimming pools, gyms and saunas will close
- Amateur sports competitions are banned and training sessions have been cancelled
However, the new restrictions still allow:
- Schools and kindergartens will remain open
- Hairdressers also remain open
- Supermarkets remain open, but measures for shopping will become stricter
- Professional sports games are still allowed but audiences are banned
- Individual sports, such as jogging, are still allowed
- Church services and protests will be allowed to continue due to constitutional concerns
- Nursing home residents will be allowed to receive visitors
- Shops will remain open, with one customer allowed per 10 square meters (108 square feet)
- Borders remain open
Here’s what Germany’s “lockdown light” will look like:https://t.co/gU0qS7wGeP— DW News (@dwnews) October 29, 2020
2. Support for businesses
Merkel promised that companies affected by these new measures will receive economic support, stating that companies with up to 50 employees and the self-employed will receive 75% of their income in support.
Additionally, emergency loans will be available for self-employed workers, for example artists and stage hands, and very cheap loans will be available to small businesses with less than 10 employees. Larger companies will have to rely on EU rules for assistance, which will vary depending on the company.
3. Public reactions
Merkel’s government has previously received a fair amount of support for the measures it has put in put in place to fight the pandemic and Germany has been in relatively good situation compared to many of its European neighbours. However public mood has been shifting and criticism towards the government and their measured is increasing.
Some of the opposition to further restrictions comes from fear of the economic impact, for example restaurant and other hospitality business owners, who have already seen losses after the spring lockdown and then the social distancing rules and finally the curfew imposed last month. Germany has even seen anti-lockdown protests in recent months.
Everything you need to know about Germany’s “lockdown light” — in 60 seconds. pic.twitter.com/w8R9sKMr8N— DW News (@dwnews) October 30, 2020
4. A good example
Although infection rates in Germany are increasing, it is still in a strong situation compared to other European countries. Even taking into account the high daily infection figures from late October, in terms of cases per 100,000 inhabitants Germany is still much lower than Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Belgium.
Two other European countries that have introduced partial or localised lockdowns in recent weeks are France and the UK. Germany is hoping to reduce rates by implementing this lockdown early to avoid a worse situation.