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German state leaders lay out plans for eventual easing of lockdown

German state leaders lay out plans for eventual easing of lockdown

German state leaders lay out plans for eventual easing of lockdown

Ahead of Wednesday’s coronavirus summit, a number of prominent German politicians have begun to put forward their plans for a step-by-step loosening of lockdown measures. The federal government, however, is adamant that it is too soon to lift restrictions. 

State leaders propose step-by-step routes out of lockdown

With the incidence rate of coronavirus continuing to fall in Germany, three state leaders this weekend presented their plans for a step-by-step reopening of the country. Although they differ on the details, each plan appeals for a nationwide strategy that takes not only the infection rate into account, but also intensive care occupancy, the vaccine quota, and the R-rate. 

Schleswig-Holstein, for example, has proposed a four-step plan that would see limited operations resume in childcare, schools and hairdressers when the incidence rate falls below 100 for seven days in a row. Further relaxation steps would then be possible once the incidence rate has fallen below 50. 

In Thuringia, a five-step plan is being put forward that would allow restaurants, gyms, museums and Kitas to reopen when the incidence rate falls below 100. Hairdressers and beauty salons would even be allowed to reopen from an incidence rate of 200, so long as the numbers are falling. 

Lower Saxony, on the other hand, is envisioning an even more complicated, six-step plan that sets out different rules for different “threat levels”, from a low incidence rate of below 10, to an escalating one above 200. Under this arrangement, hotels, restaurants, shops and face-to-face teaching would only be able to resume operations when the incidence rate falls below 50. 

On Monday, the Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczeck was also due to present a hygiene concept which, according to her ministry, would allow schools to stay open, regardless of the infection situation. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the measures outlined include the division of pupils into groups, or “shifts”, to avoid overcrowding on buses. Masks would also be compulsory at all times. 

Merkel’s allies say it is too soon to lift restrictions

But some senior politicians are still sticking firmly to the idea that it is too soon to relax measures - especially while there is still so much uncertainty about the prevalence of mutated, highly-contagious strains of COVID-19. 

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday that the government was not considering loosening restrictions “until we are clearly under an incidence of 50.” Speaking on the talk show Anne Will, Spahn said he was unable to speak about a long-term plan for easing the lockdown. “I know that everyone wants a six-month plan,” he said, “but that’s impossible in this pandemic. 

This line was echoed by the Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier, who said, “It would not be responsible to take concrete steps at this stage - the numbers are still too high.” Markus Söder, the state premier of Bavaria, was of the same opinion: “It is annoying to have to take everything so slowly, but that is the only thing that really helps. Our challenger - the virus - doesn’t stick to any of the deadlines we set.”

CDU politicians advocate lockdown exit strategy

Nonetheless, dissenting voices are growing louder even within Angela Merkel’s own party. Thorsten Frei, the vice-chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group, said on Monday that, with the infection rate falling and discontent with restrictions growing, the population had to be given a glimmer of hope.

“After months of restrictions and hard privations… We have to talk about more tangible perspectives," he said. “Instead of advising on national lockdowns, we need concepts for local openings.” The CDU health politician Rudolf Henke and the CDU interior expert Marian Wendt also advocated a nationwide stepped approach out of lockdown. 

On Monday morning, the Robert Koch Institute reported that the nationwide seven-day incidence rate (the number of new infections per 100.000 residents in the last week) had fallen to 76. 

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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