Berlin (dpa) – The citizens of Germany must adapt to tighter contact restrictions in the Corona crisis – for this they should be allowed to celebrate Christmas with close family and friends.
Whether the relaxation will also apply to New Year’s Eve is still open to new consultations between the countries and Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) next Wednesday. For businesses that should remain closed in December, the federal government is planning even more billions in aid. The federal government starts the negotiations with ideas that are in part far-reaching than the federal states.
The prime ministers of the federal states reached agreement on Monday evening on a line with which they will enter into consultation with Merkel. Therefore, contact restrictions should be tightened from the beginning of December. However, there will be a relaxation from December 23 to January 1. The goal is to significantly reduce the high number of new corona infections in the coming weeks. Shortly after the negotiations in the group of states, however, some government leaders already called for improvements.
According to the more elaborate ideas of the Chancellery, one of the things to be accomplished is that there is no more than one customer per 25 square feet of retail space in stores – so far that’s one customer per 10 square feet. To make travel safer, the number of occupied seats on trains must be significantly reduced. In principle, only all window seats should be bookable for the winter months. At the same time, the capacity of the trains must be increased.
It is also proposed that the Christmas holidays begin nationwide on December 19. Initially, the federal government had already anticipated December 16.
The German news agency initially incorrectly reported on Tuesday evening that several federal amendments were an updated version of the federal state’s draft. The associated breaking news dpa withdrew a short time later.
The Prime Ministers’ proposals at a glance:
EXTENSION OF THE PARTIAL LOCKDOWN: The partial lockdown in effect since early November with the closure of pubs and restaurants, as well as cultural and recreational facilities, should be extended until at least December 20. All unnecessary contacts and trips should be avoided. Wholesaling and retailing remain open, but the mask obligation should now also apply to shops and in parking lots. If the incidence is “well” below 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days and if other conditions are met, countries should be given the option to deviate from this. For extreme corona hotspots, countries should be able to decide on regional tightening as before.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT: Support in November for companies and institutions affected by the partial closure will continue in December. The federal government is planning financial aid for affected companies in the amount of probably 17 billion euros, the dpa heard from government circles on Tuesday. Details were unclear at first.
CONTACT RESTRICTIONS: Contact restrictions need to be tightened. “Private gatherings with friends, relatives and acquaintances should be limited to one’s own household and to another household, but in any case to a maximum of five people”, says the country newspaper, excluding children up to 14 years of age. There must be a special arrangement for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
CONTACT RULES FOR CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEARS: From December 23 to January 1, by the will of the federal states, meetings of a household with non-household relatives or people outside the household must be allowed up to a maximum of ten people. Children up to 14 years of age must be excluded. This should mean that “parties with family and friends, albeit on a smaller scale, should be possible”, it says, “Because these days are particularly important for family and social cohesion.”
The prime ministers are calling for domestic self-quarantine to be carried out for several days before Christmas. “This could be supported by the Christmas holidays which may be preferable from December 19, 2020,” the state draft said Monday evening.
According to the ideas of the federal government, a more generous testing option for cold symptoms should also be offered before Christmas to make Christmas encounters as safe as possible.
The Prime Minister of Bavaria, Markus Söder (CSU), is calling for further tightening of the previous state proposals. He wants to discuss, among other things, whether the relaxation of the contact restrictions intended for Christmas should also apply on New Year’s Eve or whether the period should be shortened. The head of government of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann (Greens), also considers the period of the proposed relaxation from 23 December to 1 January too long.
Schleswig-Holstein’s head of government, Daniel Günther (CDU), criticized that the motion meant that 10 people from 10 households plus children up to 14 could meet from December 23 to New Year so that there could be 20 people: guess the number clearly is too high. “Schleswig-Holstein therefore adheres to the guideline at Christmas that no more than ten people may meet in public or private.
MASK OBLIGATION: A masking obligation should apply nationally “in enclosed areas that are accessible to the public or when visitors or customers come”. And also in inner cities and other places in the open air, “where people are in a confined space or not just temporarily”, a mouth and nose protector should be mandatory. The local authorities must determine the exact places and times. A mask requirement must also apply in the workplace – except where a distance of 1.5 meters from other people is maintained.
FIREWORKS: Prime Ministers want to ban fireworks on busy squares and streets on New Year’s Eve to avoid larger groups. “The locally responsible authorities determine the affected places and streets,” the newspaper said. In essence, it is “recommended” to refrain from fireworks at the turn of the year – a sales ban introduced by SPD countries is not envisaged.
COMPANY HOLIDAY: Employers should check whether production facilities can close due to corporate holidays or generous home office solutions from December 23 to January 1. This should implement the principle of “Stay at Home”. Business associations criticized.
SCHOOLS AND KITAS: Childcare facilities and schools must remain open. No extensive alternation classes are planned. However, in regions with significantly more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days, a mask should also apply in the classroom from grade 7 onwards in the future. It should also be possible to introduce such a requirement for primary school, fifth and sixth grade. In “special infection hotspots”, in addition to the end lessons, there should be school-specific “further measures for the design of lessons”, such as hybrid lessons. Rapid tests are also increasingly used in schools.
QUARANTAINE: From December 1, a shorter quarantine period of 10 instead of the previous 14 days applies for contacts of corona-infected persons – but with a negative test. The federal and state ministers of health have already reached agreement on this, regardless of the deliberations of the heads of government. Federal Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) told the Funke media group papers: “Ten days of quarantine with a quick test at the end is as safe as fourteen days of quarantine without a test.” There are four days fewer restrictions for those affected.
PROTECTION OF RISK GROUPS: The Prime Ministers want to improve the protection of risk groups. There should be 20 rapid tests per week for people in need of care – 20 rapid tests per month are already available for nursing home residents. In general, the federal government wants to organize more supplies for the new year. The goal is to secure approximately 60 million rapid tests for Germany by the first quarter of 2021, as the DPA has been informed by the Ministry of Health. 40 million tests will follow in the second quarter and another 30 million by the end of the year. By the end of this year, quotas have already been obtained through purchase guarantees from manufacturers, so countries and institutions can buy them – 17.5 million tests by December.
SOCIAL GUARANTEE: As part of the “Social Guarantee 2022”, the federal government should stabilize social security contributions at a maximum of 40 percent. Any additional financial requirements, such as for health insurance, must be covered by the federal budget through 2022, states demand. There is no question of a corona “solidarity surcharge” as proposed by the SPD. The federal government is already spending five billion euros extra on statutory health insurance before 2021.
CORONA APP: In the fight against the coronavirus, the federal states are also counting on further development of the state warning app. The application is expected to receive three more updates in the next six weeks.
NEXT BUND-LÄNDER-ROUND: The federal state proposal does not include an automatic mechanism to extend measures. It says, “The federal government and states will agree on how to proceed by December 15th.” The federal states therefore assume that extensive restrictions will also be necessary after the turn of the year due to the high contamination level. Merkel announced in the parliamentary group of the Union that she would contact the prime minister again on December 14 or 15.