Berlin (dpa) – Given the persistently high Corona numbers, the relaxation over the holidays is very likely less than many German citizens had hoped. Bavaria took over the relief that was planned for New Year’s Eve on Sunday.
But that’s how it should stay over Christmas. The promised relaxation is also being re-examined in other federal states. The reason for this is that there has been no real turnaround in the number of new infections, nor in deaths, despite the partial lockdown that lasted for weeks.
The government parties CDU / CSU and SPD increasingly warned against taking unnecessary risks. In her weekly video message, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) spoke of the fact that there was “light at the end of the tunnel” thanks to advances in vaccine development. At the same time, she tempered the expectation that the fight against the pandemic would already be won by starting a vaccination program. According to Health Minister Jens Spahn (also CDU) there will be massive vaccinations by the summer.
Contrary to popular belief, the number of new infections is still high despite the partial lockdown. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), health authorities reported 17,767 new infections within one day on Sunday – more than 3,100 more than a week ago. The number of recorded cases is usually lower on Sundays than during the week – also because fewer tests are performed. Within 24 people, 255 people died as a result of the virus.
23,318 new infections were reported on Saturday – also more than a week earlier. With 483 new deaths, the previous high was barely missed. Experts are therefore increasingly concerned that if the situation is eased for a total of ten days by the end of the year, the numbers will skyrocket in early 2021. SPD group leader Bärbel Bas told the German news agency: “If the figures remain at this high level until December 20, the measures should not be relaxed during the holidays.”
In Bavaria, the cabinet has already decided not to maintain the planned expansion until December 23-26. “The fact remains, the figures are just too high,” said Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU). Now in Bavaria, meetings of more than two households with up to ten people are only allowed from the day before Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. Otherwise, up to five people from two households can be together. Baden-Württemberg already has a similar scheme. A maximum of five people are allowed in Berlin during the entire holiday.
Other states are also considering leaving the relief on New Year’s Eve. Saarland Prime Minister Tobias Hans (CDU) told the Augsburger Allgemeine (Saturday): “One thing is clear: we must not take any risks, not even on New Year’s Eve.” Thuringia’s Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow (left) was quoted by the Funke media group as saying, “There will be no relief for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.” On Tuesday, the cabinet must discuss how the State Chancellery announced this on Twitter.
The Association of Cities and Municipalities was also skeptical. “Depending on how things are going in the next ten days, the relaxation planned for Christmas and New Years will certainly have to be called into question again,” CEO Gerd Landsberg told the Handelsblatt.
The new contact restrictions have been in effect since early November. From 1 December they were tightened up in almost all federal states. Private meetings are limited to five participants from a maximum of two households; Children up to 14 years are excluded. However, in view of the holidays, the federal and state governments had agreed to allow ten people plus children to attend the family gatherings from December 23 to January 1.
At the schools in Bavaria, face-to-face lessons will also be limited from next Wednesday: from grade eight onwards, the lessons will be distributed everywhere and a switch will be made to changing lessons. In hotspots with 200 new infections per week and 100,000 inhabitants, eighth grade students have to switch completely to distance learning.
In Baden-Württemberg, curfews began at 9 p.m. in some of these particularly affected municipalities. In Mannheim and Pforzheim, for example, it is now prohibited to leave the house without good reason. Exceptions apply, for example, for medical emergencies or for work reasons.