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Merkel's plan: Lockdown extended, contact restrictions eased, some shops open

Merkel's plan: Lockdown extended, contact restrictions eased, some shops open

Merkel's plan: Lockdown extended, contact restrictions eased, some shops open

Ahead of Wednesday’s deliberations between Angela Merkel and the federal states, more details are emerging as to what will be up for discussion. According to a leaked document, the federal government will be pushing for a lockdown extension, but some restrictions will be eased. 

Lockdown in Germany could be extended until March 28

A draft resolution prepared on Monday evening by the so-called “group of four”, who work with Angela Merkel and the state premiers, has given the first indication of what could be decided upon tomorrow in Germany's ongoing fight against COVID-19

The draft document, which has been seen by a number of German media outlets, including SPIEGEL, Bild and Focus Online, specifies that the current shutdown should be extended until March 28 for the time being. However, it also envisions restrictions being eased in some areas: 

Contact restrictions

From next week (March 8), contact restrictions would be loosened slightly across Germany, so that up to five members of two households would be allowed to meet up once again. Children up to the age of 14 would not count towards this maximum limit. 

In regions where the seven-day incidence rate falls below 35 or 50 per 100.000 new infections per week, the possibility of private get-togethers could be extended to “include one’s own and two other households, with a maximum of 10 people”. Whether the crucial threshold will be 35 or 50 still needs to be discussed. 

The draft also provides for further exceptions over the Easter holidays, as was the case over Christmas in Germany: Visiting relatives should be possible between April 2 and 5, even if more than two households meet up. Everyone would be urged to reduce social contacts in the run-up to these meet-ups and make use of rapid coronavirus tests. 

Some non-essentials shops reopening

They are already opening in some federal states, but the draft specifies that bookshops, flower shops and garden centres should open uniformly across the country. 

This would constitute a  second easing step after the reopening of primary schools and hairdressers from the beginning of the month. Appropriate hygiene measures and a limit of one customer per 20 square metres of shop floor space would be required. 

Close-contact services reopening

Other close-contact services should also be allowed to reopen, as well as flights schools and driving schools, under the condition that business owners take a daily rapid coronavirus test. Customers would also have to show a negative test result. 

Third and fourth opening steps

A “third opening step” should be possible nationwide (or regionally) if a stable seven-day incidence rate of less than 35 new infections per 100.000 inhabitants is achieved. It would then be possible, for example, to reopen shops, museums and zoos. Sports would also be made possible in outdoor areas for up to 10 people.

The “fourth reopening step” would occur if the incidence value remained below 35 for 14 days. Then outdoor catering would be allowed to open, as well as theatres and cinemas. Contact sports would be allowed outdoors, and non-contact sports indoors. 

Emergency brake

Finally, a so-called “emergency brake” would be introduced. The rules that applied until March 7 would come into force again if the incidence rate exceeded a set value on three consecutive days. The federal and state governments are still negotiating exactly what this value would be. 

National test strategy

The current national test strategy would also be supplemented by some additional measures, focusing on rapid tests:

  • Staff and pupils in schools and childcare facilities to be offered at least one or two rapid tests per week
  • Companies required to offer employees working in contact roles at least one or two free rapid tests per week

Next opening steps to be decided on March 24

In what will come as a disappointment for many, the draft does not contain any concrete steps concerning the reopening of restaurants, hotels and bars. According to the document, the next round of talks will take place on March 24, one week before Easter. Only then will further reopening steps be discussed, for example for gastronomy, culture, events, travel and hotels. 

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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