Germany extends measures until April 18
Germany extends measures until April 18
Following lengthy and bitter negotiations that extended well into the night, Germany’s federal and state governments have finally come to an agreement. As well as extending lockdown measures until at least mid-April, the leaders have also agreed to impose a hard lockdown over the Easter period, involving the strictest rules ever seen in the federal republic.
What was decided at the coronavirus summit on March 22?
It was inevitable - indeed, it was written in the rules agreed upon at the coronavirus summit earlier this month - no further reopening steps could be taken if the infection situation deteriorated in the meantime.
And, clearly, it has. On Monday, the nationwide seven-day coronavirus incidence rate in Germany rose to 107,3 new cases per 100.000 inhabitants - above the crucial limit of 100, beyond which, it was previously agreed, the so-called “emergency brake” had to be imposed.
Finally emerging in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany would extend its current lockdown until April 18. At the same time, the federal republic will enter an even stricter lockdown from April 1 to April 5, when public life will be severely restricted.
Merkel said that Germany needed to “break the exponential growth of the third wave”, before infection rates reach the point that the healthcare system becomes overburdened. The announcement marks a reversal from earlier this month, when the federal and state governments agreed to a cautious reopening of public life.
Here’s an overview of what’s been decided.
Lockdown extended until April 18
The state leaders have agreed that lockdown will be extended once again - this time until April 18. This point apparently required little discussion. Measures were due to expire on March 28, making this a three-week extension.
Hard lockdown over Easter
In addition, a hard lockdown will apply over the Easter holidays (from Thursday, April 1, to Monday, April 5). These tougher restrictions will apply:
- Churches will be asked to hold Easter services online
- No more than five adults from two households allowed to meet (children under the age of 14 do not count)
- Public gatherings prohibited
- All shops (including supermarkets) closed. Only grocery stores may open on Saturday, April 3
- Testing and vaccinations centres can remain open
Update (March 24): During a second conference call, Angela Merkel and the federal states decided to abandon the plan to impose a hard lockdown over Easter.
Emergency brake to be implemented "consistently"
The federal government has re-emphasised the need for the so-called "emergency brake" - a measure contained in the last agreement that mandates a return to lockdown if the seven-day incidence rate rises above 100 - to be applied consistently nationwide.
This means that if the seven-day incidence rate rises above 100 per 100.000 inhabitants on three consecutive days in a state or region, the rules that were in effect until March 7 would come into force again. That means:
- Non-essential shops would close, along with outdoor dining areas at restaurants, museums, art galleries, theatres, cinemas, etc
- Private gatherings only allowed with members of your own household and one other person
- Hairdressers would stay open
No nationwide curfew for time being
Angela Merkel was pushing to have a nighttime curfew included as one of the emergency brake measures, but faced strong resistance from the federal states. It has therefore been left on the table as a possible additional step that the states can regulate themselves. Other tighter measures include an obligation for passengers to wear medical masks in cars.
Test obligation for returning vacationers
For those who travel abroad for holidays, a general test obligation should apply in future. The federal government will impose this via an amendment to the Infection Protection Act. This will mean that nobody will be allowed to travel to Germany, even if they are coming from regions not currently classified as risk areas, before presenting a negative test for COVID-19.
More tests sought
In the end, the federal and state governments were unable to reach an agreement on the question of schools and daycare centres. The federal states will therefore continue to regulate these matters independently. However, the leaders did agree that more rapid tests should be procured, to allow teachers and staff members to self-test twice a week "as soon as possible".
The next coronavirus summit has been scheduled for April 12, when Angela Merkel will meet once again with the federal states to discuss progress and possible next steps.