Berlin (dpa) – The lockdown to combat the corona pandemic in Germany is extended to mid-February given the persistently high number of infections and deaths.
At the same time, federal and state governments decided on additional restrictions on Tuesday night: The commonly used everyday cloth masks will no longer be sufficient in many places. The more protective FFP2 masks or surgical masks should be worn on buses and trains as well as while shopping.
One reason for the tightening is the “ grave danger ” of what is likely a much more contagious coronavirus mutation, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) said after the Berlin talks. “To some extent there is still time to contain all the danger.” But action must be taken now, otherwise the number of infections could quickly rise sharply. “It’s difficult what we should expect people to do now,” Merkel said. But it is about prevention for the country and the citizens, but also for the economy and the world of work, which would suffer very badly from an explosive increase in the number of infections.
Following the decision, restaurants and bars, leisure facilities, theaters, cinemas and retailers will remain closed. Exceptions still apply to supermarkets, drug stores, and other stores that sell groceries. Private meetings are only allowed with members of your own household and one other person.
There have been long and passionate discussions between the federal and state governments about how to deal with schools. Ultimately it was agreed that schools would either remain closed or that compulsory education would be suspended. In this case, parents are often asked not to send their children to school. The same goes for daycare centers.
Negotiations between the federal and state governments were shaped by the question of what parents and children could do, Merkel said. The Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, announced that primary schools and day care centers are likely to be gradually and cautiously reopened from February 1, “contagion conditions permitting”.
In order to reduce contacts at work, but also on the way to work, employers will have to make working from home as much as possible. The employees are asking the federal and state governments to take advantage of such offers. Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) has already submitted a draft for a home office regulation. Accordingly, employers with a so-called seven-day incidence of 50 or more should be required to “offer employees in the case of office work or similar activities to perform these activities at home (home office) if there are no compelling operational reasons for deviating from this. “.
Merkel, Berlin Prime Minister Michael Müller (SPD) and Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) stressed that there is currently cause for hope. The current contamination figures offer the first lights of hope. Health authorities reported 11,369 new corona infections within one day to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Tuesday. Exactly a week ago there were 12,802 new infections.
According to experts, the numbers are still far too high to dare to relax. The number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (incidence of seven days) is currently still more than 130 nationwide – the target value for health authorities to follow up is 50.
Virus variants such as B.1.1.7., Which according to their current status are much more contagious and which – probably at a relatively low level – are already circulating in Germany, are of concern. According to experts, lifting the lockdown would give them free rein. “If the virus becomes more dangerous, the mask must be better,” said Söder, who justified the tightened mask requirement.
Merkel reiterated the goal of re-establishing full chain and contact tracking. All citizens should be vaccinated by the end of the summer. This also depends on the planning security for vaccine deliveries. The Chancellor also warned that Germany’s neighbors “should work in the same direction” to contain the corona pandemic. This is also a topic at the EU summit next Thursday. If not, “precautions” should be taken with entry-level questions.
Federal and state governments are again calling on citizens: “The next few weeks in the pandemic will be critical,” they write in their latest decision. Should the coronavirus mutation prove to be much more contagious, then a “further significant deterioration” of the situation is likely. The measures previously agreed between the federal government and the states will initially be extended until February 14, the federal and states will be adjusted in detail according to:
CONTACTS: In addition, meetings outside of your own household are only allowed with one other person. It is recommended to keep the number of households involved as constant and small as possible.
MASKS: Better protective masks should be mandatory on public transport and in shops. These can be surgical masks, FFP2 masks or KN95 masks, which have a similar standard. Everyday cloth masks are no longer enough.
KITAS & SCHOOLS: Daycare centers and schools will remain closed until February 14th or compulsory attendance will be suspended.
NURSING & CARE HOME: Staff must wear an FFP2 mask when in contact with residents. Bundeswehr soldiers and volunteers must intervene so that visitors and personnel can take rapid tests several times a week. There must also be adequate testing in facilities for people with disabilities.
DIVINE SERVICES: Worship services are allowed if the minimum distance of 1.5 meters is maintained. A mask with a higher protection standard is mandatory, singing is prohibited. Meetings with more than ten participants should normally be notified to the regulatory authority at least two working days in advance.
WORK & HOME OFFICE: Employers should enable working from home wherever possible. The Federal Department of Labor will issue a corresponding ordinance for a limited period by March 15.
TAX PROMOTION FOR COMPUTERS: Anyone who buys “certain digital assets” should be able to fully deduct them from tax the year they are purchased – retroactively from January 1. It concerns «computer hardware and software for data input and processing».
HOTSPOTS: In countries and districts where a particularly high number of people are infected in relation to the number of inhabitants, stricter measures should be taken if necessary. There too, the realistic chance should be of reaching the target of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days (7 days incidence) by mid-February.
VACCINATIONS: All nursing home residents who wish to do so must be vaccinated by mid-February at the latest. Almost half have already been vaccinated, according to the decision. The federal government wants to try to give federal states reliable delivery times for vaccines for the next six weeks.
VIRUS MUTATIONS: According to a regulation that came into effect on Tuesday, the circulating variants of the coronavirus should be further investigated for the exact virus type (sequencing). The federal government should present the first results in early February. The background is the fear of the spread of new virus variants, such as in Great Britain or Ireland, which could be significantly more contagious.
HEALTH OFFICE: Students must be recruited and trained to follow up contacts in health departments for the semester break from mid February to mid April. The goal is to ensure contact follow-up up to an incidence of at least 50.
CORONA-AID: Access to public support for businesses and the self-employed needs to be facilitated and aid expanded. For companies that are entitled to social assistance benefits and have submitted a promising application on time, the obligation to file for bankruptcy will be suspended until the end of April.
NEXT STEPS: In mid-February, federal and state governments aim to develop a concept for a “safe and fair opening strategy”.
ALSO APPLIES: Retail remains closed. Exceptions apply to stores that supply daily needs. Hairdressers, massage practices and cosmetic studios are also closed. Alcohol consumption in public places remains prohibited.