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Germany extends lockdown until January 31 and tightens restrictions

Germany extends lockdown until January 31 and tightens restrictions

Germany extends lockdown until January 31 and tightens restrictions

After several hours of negotiations, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of the 16 federal states have agreed to extend Germany’s coronavirus lockdown until at least January 31. Some tighter restrictions will also be introduced. 

Germany to stay in lockdown until at least January 31

With coronavirus infection rates and daily death tolls remaining high across the country, Germany has opted to not only extend its coronavirus lockdown, but also make it stricter. 

Initially scheduled to begin at 11 am, the video conference between Angela Merkel and the state premiers was delayed twice - first to 1 pm, and then again to 2 pm - as ministers debated various individual points before coming together to agree upon a uniform course of action to curb the spread of coronavirus in Germany

"We must be especially careful now. We are in a new and extraordinary situation," said Angela Merkel at a press conference announcing the new rules. She emphasised that the appearance of new, more infectious strains of the virus had made the situation even more precarious.

Tight restrictions keeping non-essential shops, schools and restaurants closed have been in place across the country since December 16, 2020. They were initially due to expire on January 10, but the continuing high incidence of new coronavirus cases and deaths has prompted calls for restrictions to be extended. Here’s what’s been agreed upon:

Lockdown extended

As was broadly expected, Germany’s tougher lockdown restrictions have been extended until at least January 31. This means that non-essential shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, hairdressers, beauty salons and other cultural and leisure facilities will be forced to remain closed. Employers are once again appealed to allow their employees to continue to work from home. Alcohol cannot be consumed in public.

Tighter contact restrictions

In an effort to get infection numbers back under control, the ministers also agreed to impose new, tighter contact restrictions nationwide. The new measures are similar to those that were imposed during the lockdown in the spring

In essence, this means that people are encouraged to reduce contact with people outside their household to an absolute minimum. Private meetings will only be permitted with members of your household, or with one other person from a different household.

Restrictions on movement

At the insistence of Merkel, the states also agreed to introducing tough movement restrictions in coronavirus hotspots - defined as areas where there has been a seven-day incidence of more than 200 new infections per 100.000 inhabitants. There are currently 67 districts nationwide where this value has been exceeded, according to the Robert Koch Institute. 

Following the example of Saxony, where similar restrictions are already in place, inhabitants of hotspots are not permitted to travel more than 15 kilometres from their place of residence, unless they have a valid reason such as going to work, to the doctor, or providing essential care. Day trips are explicitly not considered a valid reason. 

Schools to remain closed

Merkel also confirmed what was announced earlier in the day by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education: that schools and childcare will remain closed until at least February, although an exception will be made for students with exams coming up. If the situation in individual states allows, school operations will thereafter be resumed in stages.

According to the step-by-step plan laid out by the 16 ministers of education, students in grades 1 to 6 would be the first to return to school, while all other children continue learning remotely. In the second step, students from grade 7 upwards would be allowed to partially return to school on a rotational basis. Only in the third stage would also students return to face-to-face teaching. 

Support for parents

The federal and state governments also want to give more support to parents who are once again having to juggle the demands of childcare, teaching and working. Accordingly, each parent should be entitled to 10 additional days of paid leave to care for their children (the so-called "child sickness benefit" (Kinderkrankengeld)) in 2021. Single parents can claim an extra 20 days. 

Statutory health insurance usually pays the child sickness benefit if parents cannot go to work because they have to care for a sick child. Now, the benefit will also be given out to parents who have to look after their children at home due to school and daycare closures. 

Protective measures for old people and nursing homes

Special protective measures will also be put in place in retirement and nursing homes. Until enough vaccinations have been completed in these facilities and residents built up enough immunity, a quick test will be required for anyone entering the facility. Staff will also be obligated to get tested several times a week. 

Tighter rules for entry from corona risk areas

The regulations for people entering Germany from coronavirus hotspots abroad are also being tightened once again. From January 11 onwards, not only will arrivals have to enter a mandatory 10-day quarantine period, but they will also have to get tested for the virus 48 hours prior to travel, or immediately after arrival. The quarantine period can still be shortened with a second negative coronavirus test, which can be taken five days after arriving in Germany at the earliest. 

Vaccine strategy

Merkel also wants to intervene in the issue of vaccine shortages. She said that the leaders discussed this at length. She emphasised that the federal and state governments were in agreement that the strategy of obtaining vaccine doses together with other EU member states was still considered a good one.

A meeting between the chancellor and other responsible ministers has been planned for Wednesday, to discuss how additional vaccine production can be supported by the federal government. 

Restrictions to be re-evaluated 

These new restrictions are now in place until at least January 31. Angela Merkel and the heads of state will meet again on January 25 to discuss developments and decide upon their next course of action. 

On Tuesday, the Robert Koch Institute recorded 11.897 new infections and 944 deaths within the past 24 hours. 

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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