On Tuesday, Germany tightened a partial lockout and extended it until February 14, with Chancellor Angela Merkel warning of possible border controls to contain the “danger” of new coronavirus variants that are believed to be more contagious.
Speaking after hours of crisis talks with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states, Merkel said the latest restrictions were necessary as “a precautionary measure for our country, the health of our citizens and also for the economy”.
According to a final text that AFP saw, Merkel and the state premiums agreed to make medical masks mandatory on public transport and in shops – which means that only surgical masks or so-called FFP2 masks are allowed.
They also said that employers must make it possible for staff to work from home wherever possible.
The measure goes beyond previous calls for companies to do more to keep people out of offices and out of public transport.
“All our efforts to control the virus are threatened by a serious danger,” Merkel told reporters, pointing to a new strain that has given rise to a growing infection in Britain and Ireland.
“There is still time to limit the danger,” she said. “We must act now.”
“There is still time to limit the danger” with Covid-19 variants, says Merkel
Germany closed restaurants, leisure and sports facilities in November and then extended the closure in mid-December to include schools and most shops to stop temporary growth in new coronavirus infections.
They will all be closed until February 14 now.
Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said earlier that the measures so far have led to a “flattening of the infection curve” and noted that the number of patients in intensive care has decreased slightly.
Tuesday’s talks between Merkel and state premieres came to a head with a week due to concerns about virus variants that were recently discovered in South Africa and the United Kingdom.
Merkel said Germany would use an EU summit on Thursday to demand “synchronized measures” to curb the spread of the new tribes.
She warned that Europe’s best economy may need to install border controls if neighbors do not find an agreement within the bloc and notes the many cross-border commuters every day.
“If countries decide to go different ways … you have to be ready to say that, we have to reintroduce border controls. We do not want that, we want to find an agreement with our partners, she said.
Germany survived the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic relatively well, but a second wave hit Europe’s largest economy hard.
Germany extends Covid-19 lockdown until mid-February
New infections have risen well above the threshold of 50 per 100,000 people set by the government. And last Thursday, the country saw a new peak in daily deaths with 1,244.
On Tuesday, daily deaths reached 989, although health authorities said they may have been inflated after a delay in weekend reporting. More than 11,000 new cases were registered.
Seibert noted on Monday that the incidence was still over 130 per 100,000 people, and that Germany “must accelerate” it down to 50.
Experts have been concerned about data showing that Germans seemed to be moving almost as normally this winter, unlike in the spring when a shutdown seemed to have caused a drastic reduction in mobility.
German mobility was only 15 percent lower than a year ago, according to data from mobile phone signals analyzed by the Robert Koch Institute and the University of Berlin’s Humboldt.
RKI chief Lothar Wieler has meanwhile appealed for strict implementation of curbs that have already been ordered and said that there were too many exceptions allowed.
In northern Germany, officials planned to take more drastic action against people who violate quarantine rules.
Schleswig-Holstein’s Ministry of Justice transforms a juvenile detention center into a forced quarantine site for those who do not isolate themselves when required.