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Corona summit on March 3: What are Merkel and the state leaders planning?

Corona summit on March 3: What are Merkel and the state leaders planning?

Corona summit on March 3: What are Merkel and the state leaders planning?

On Wednesday, March 3, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of the federal states are due to meet to discuss what will happen to Germany’s lockdown after March 7. But one day before the summit, there seems to be no agreement as to whether coronavirus measures should be relaxed or extended. It’s shaping up to be another round of fierce negotiations.

Hefty debate brewing ahead of coronavirus summit on March 3

With just over 24 hours to go until the next coronavirus summit between the federal and state governments, the two camps appear to be irreconcilable: those advocating a loosening of restrictions, as well as those pushing for a more cautious approach, have been championing their cause with increasing ferocity over the past few days. 

Business representatives, politicians, and even some state leaders are now saying that the time is right for restrictions to be gradually lifted. However, doctors and other state premiers are pointing to the slight increase in coronavirus infections in recent weeks - for them, a worrying indication that Germany may be on the brink of a third wave of COVID-19 - to say that a premature reopening could jeopardise all of the progress made so far. 

A decision - if one can even be reached - is likely to come late on Wednesday evening.  

What is the current situation in Germany?

At the last coronavirus summit on February 10, Angela Merkel and the heads of state agreed that the next reopening steps would only come if the rate of new infections remained stable at a maximum of 35 per 100.000 inhabitants. They would then consider reopening non-essential shops, museums and close contact services. 

However, numbers are now stagnating slightly - and have even been rising again over the past week - meaning that this target is going to be more difficult to reach. Faced with the possibility of restrictions being extended indefinitely, therefore, a number of people are calling for the federal and state governments to stop focusing on incidence values and instead pursue controlled reopening steps. 

Calls for restrictions to be loosened growing louder

The state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, said that their strategy should be “concentrated security” rather than “permanent closure.” Similarly, Reiner Haseloff, the state premier of Saxony-Anhalt, also advocated a loosening of measures: “People are exhausted after the lockdown,” he said, adding that ongoing restrictions would simply encourage people to break the rules in private. 

The trade association HDE also warned that Germany risked a wave of bankruptcies if restrictions were kept in place much longer, while the hotel and restaurant association (Dehoga) demanded that the previous reopening criteria be abandoned. “We are demanding a clear timetable with which restaurants and hotels can reopen before Easter,” general manager Ingrid Hartges said to Tagesspiegel

German doctors push for more cautious approach

Medical associations, on the other hand, are warning against a hasty and uncoordinated easing: “It would be wrong to just open some areas because people are tired of lockdown,” said Ute Teichert, the chairperson of the Federal Association of Medical Officials. “Under no circumstances should we roll out the red carpet for the virus.” 

This opinion was backed up by the Marburger Bund: “The openings should be made slowly and gradually. It is important to wait for the consequences before taking the next step,” said chairperson Susanne Johna. The mayor of Hamburg, Peter Tschentscher, has also adopted this position: “We would rather prolong the crisis if we lift too many restrictions at the same time,” the SPD politician said. 

Can a compromise be reached?

However, some figures are trying to reconcile the two positions. The state premier of Bavaria, Markus Söder, said, “We need a perspective for trade and also for the question of contact restrictions.” He emphasised the importance of regional differentiation for areas with very low incidences, and a hotspot strategy for high-incidence regions. 

This middle ground appears to be the route the federal government is also pushing for, according to a leaked paper seen by Business Insider. Angela Merkel is apparently looking to extend the current lockdown in principle until the end of March, with a “reopening corridor” in place for regions that achieve a stable seven-day incidence rate of 70 per 100.000. 

There is some suggestion that restaurants with outdoor areas will be allowed to reopen with strict hygiene rules in place; ministers will also discuss the idea of reopening shops for customers by appointment only - a system already in place in some federal states. 

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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