Germany Moves Toward Tightening Partial Lockdown to Dec. 20

(Bloomberg) — Germany is moving toward extending and tightening its shutdown restrictions, setting measures that would rein in New Year’s festivities as the country struggles to slow the stubborn spread of the coronavirus.


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Germany’s regional leaders are proposing that a partial lockdown that was due to run until the end of November is extended until at least Dec. 20. The measures would be rolled over for periods of two weeks if contagion rates remain above the government’s target level, according to a briefing paper drawn up by the officials and published in German media.

“The numbers have slowed, but they are still too high,” Manuela Schwesig, the premier of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, said Monday in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio. “We still need strict rules for the whole of Germany, particularly restrictions on contact.”

The 16 state premiers will hold further talks on Monday before final decisions are made in consultation with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday. The plan would ban the sale of fireworks for New Year’s Eve and further restrict the number of people allowed in private gatherings.

While the measures are being toughened now, leaders of Europe’s largest economy have said the goal is to allow Germans to celebrate Christmas with their families.

chart: Flatter Curve

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Flatter Curve

The number of cases in Germany has tripled since the start of October to more than 900,000, and the amount of people with the disease in intensive care is at record levels. The surge in infections prompted officials to impose a partial shutdown that closed bars, restaurants, gyms and cultural venues, while keeping most of the economy running.

The regional leaders’ briefing paper also calls for an extension of financial aid for businesses — which cost around 15 billion euros ($17.8 billion) this month. Areas with lower infection rates could potentially ease restrictions early.

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Merkel has said the seven-day incidence per 100,000 citizens needs to come down to around 50 before the latest curbs can be loosened. It was at 141 on Sunday, according to the latest report from the RKI public health institute.

“The fact is that we haven’t got as far as we wanted to through the contact restrictions,” Merkel said late Sunday after a video conference with G-20 leaders. “That means we will surely have to do something more.”

Health Minister Jens Spahn struck a more positive note Monday, saying that the “second wave” of the virus has been broken and that the rolling out of vaccines could begin as early as the end of next month.

Read more: German Industrial Strength Limits Virus Damage to Economy

Spahn was speaking on a visit to vaccine manufacturer IDT Biologika in Dessau, and announced that the government has agreed a deal with the company to buy at least 5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine. It will also provide 30 million euros ($36 million) — on top of 113 million euros of research funds — to boost IDT’s production capacity.

“We have stopped the exponential growth but we’re still at a level that is too high,” Spahn said at a news conference. Germany will likely be able to start vaccinating citizens at the beginning of next year at the latest and possibly by the end of this year, he said.

“In these difficult times, the most important message is that there is a way out and that we are making good progress,” Spahn added.

Main Proposals From Regional Premiers
States with fewer than 35 cases per 100,000 over previous seven days can ease curbs before Dec. 20
If the trend fails to show declining cases by Dec. 20, restrictions should be extended for a further 14 days
From Dec. 1, private gatherings should be limited to five people from a maximum of two households
Rules on private gatherings may be relaxed over the Christmas holiday period, children up to 14 years old exempt
Purchase and use of fireworks to be banned over New Year period to ease burden on emergency services

(Updates with health minister comments from fifth paragraph)

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