Germany extends coronavirus lockdown until February 14
At the coronavirus summit on January 19, Germany’s federal and state governments agreed to once again extend the current lockdown, until at least February 14. A few new measures will also be introduced.
Coronavirus summit on January 19: What was announced?
After a tough seven and a half hours of negotiations, Angela Merkel and the federal states agreed that the current infection situation in Germany gave them no choice but to extend – and in some places tighten – lockdown measures.
Originally scheduled for January 25, this latest coronavirus summit was brought forward on account of the “critical” coronavirus situation in Germany. Although authorities are cautiously optimistic about the gradually reducing infection rates, the new, highly-contagious strains of COVID-19 are causing widespread concern.
"It's tough what we have to put people through again, but the precautionary principle is our priority, and we have to take it into account now," Merkel said at the press conference on Tuesday evening.
Here’s an overview of what was decided:
Current lockdown measures extended to February 14
As was widely expected, Merkel and the state premiers agreed to keep the current restrictions in place until at least mid-February. As a reminder, this means:
- Nonessential shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, hairdressers, beauty salons and other cultural and leisure facilities remain closed.
- Schools and childcare facilities remain closed (or compulsory attendance will be lifted), providing emergency care only. Distance learning to continue.
- Members of one household only allowed to meet in private with one other person from a different household.
New measures as of January 19
In addition, a number of new measures were agreed upon:
Recommendation to limit social contacts
The current rules governing social contacts - that members of one household may only meet with one other person from a different household - will remain in place, but the state leaders have agreed to supplement this with a further recommendation: that each household meets as few "extra" people as possible. Instead, everyone should form a social bubble that is as "constant and small as possible."
Medical masks in shops and on public transport
"Medical masks" - a definition which includes surgical, FFP2 or KN95 masks – are to be made mandatory in shops and on public transport. This is justified on the basis that these kinds of medical masks provide better protection than “everyday” masks. Everyone is recommended to wear a medical mask in any situation where they have sustained or close contact with other people.
Social contacts reduced on public transport
Passenger occupancy on all forms of public transport is to be reduced - not via direct measures but through the "extensive use of home office options" and the "equalisation of the number of passengers" during rush hours.
Extra measures in old people's and care homes
Staff in old people's and care homes will be required to wear FFP2 masks in situations where they come into contact with residents. Regular testing of staff members is to continue.
Employees to work from home wherever possible
There has been some speculation recently that the federal government was going to push for a home office requirement. However, this is not the case. Instead, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will issue an ordinance, which will apply until March 15, according to which employers must allow their employees to work from home wherever possible, provided their employment activities allow for it.
If working from home is not possible, companies are encouraged to provide their employees with medical masks and to enable flexible working hours to minimise social contacts.
Services in churches, synagogues and mosques are to be permitted, so long as a minimum distance of 1,5 metres is maintained, the mask requirement is respected, and there is no singing.
"Comprehensive measures" in hotspots
In federal states with high seven-day incidence rate, it will be possible for "comprehensive measures" to be implemented. But curfews are not currently being considered - except in federal states like Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg where they are already in place.
Bridging aid to be improved
The federal government also wants to simplify and increase the financial support it is providing to companies impacted by the pandemic. The retail trade in particular should receive more aid. The plan is to also simplify the eligibility requirements overall and significantly increase the maximum funding for companies and self-employed workers.
Next coronavirus summit
The federal and state governments will meet again later in the month to discuss progress and decide what Germany’s next steps should be.
Leave a comment