FFP2 masks, curfews, home office: Germany considering new lockdown measures
Update: The federal and state governments agreed on January 19 to extend the lockdown until February 14.
With the situation in Germany still critical, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state premiers have brought their next coronavirus summit forward to Tuesday. While it seems pretty certain that the lockdown will be extended for at least two weeks, the federal and state governments are also considering implementing a range of new measures.
Is a longer and stricter coronavirus lockdown coming?
It is widely expected that Germany will choose to extend and tighten its coronavirus measures on Tuesday, January 19. While the number of new infections is gradually reducing, as well as the number of patients in intensive care, the new, highly-contagious strains of COVID-19, first detected in the UK and South Africa, are causing a great deal of concern.
In addition, the number of new coronavirus infections in Germany is still well above the target value of 50 per 100.000 inhabitants within seven days, even after several weeks of contact restrictions and school and business closures. “We are still a long way from where we want to be,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn. “It makes sense to bring the numbers down as far as possible.”
The federal and state governments therefore have decided to come together to discuss next steps. According to a number of media reports, they have agreed in advance to extend and tighten the lockdown.
Germany considering nationwide curfew and FFP2 mask requirement
Several measures are being discussed, including an obligation for people to work from home, and an FFP2 mask requirement on public transport, and perhaps even in shops. According to Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier, “there is a selection of possibilities on the table.”
The Chancellery is reportedly also considering a nationwide, uniform night-time curfew, as already exists in France and other neighbouring countries. SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach wrote on Twitter that, in his view, curfews from 8 pm are justifiable for three weeks, otherwise the new virus mutation will spread “faster than we can vaccinate.”
Bavaria as a blueprint?
In Bavaria, people already have to wear FFP2 protective masks on buses, trams, underground and suburban trains and in all shops. A night curfew also already applies in the southern state. Bavaria State Premier Markus Söder has therefore said that his own state is already well-positioned in the fight against the pandemic.
Instead, he has called on the other states to implement the decisions made at the summit more consistently. “Half of the states do something completely different,” he said. “So you have to keep asking the question: Why do we decide something when half do it differently?” He said he sees the regulations in Bavaria has a kind of blueprint for nationwide regulations.
COVID-19 infections dropping
On Monday, the federal and state leaders will prepare a first draft of a new coronavirus ordinance, ready for deliberations on Tuesday afternoon. They will also be informed about new findings by leading scientists, including RKI President Lothar Wieler and virologist Christian Drosten.
German health authorities reported 7.141 new COVID-19 infections to the Robert Koch Institute in the 24 hours to Monday morning. According to the RKI, this is the lowest number of new infections since October 20. The number of recorded cases is usually lower on Mondays, partly because fewer tests are carried out at the weekend. Last Monday, the RKI recorded 12.487 new infections.
“After a sharp increase in the number of cases at the beginning of December, a decrease during the holidays and a renewed increase in the first week of January, the number of cases seems to be stabilising again,” the RKI wrote in its report on Sunday evening.