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 rapid spread of the coronavirus.
Germany’s regional leaders are proposing that a partial lockdown that was due to run until the end of November get 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 and the federal government 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.
The paper also calls for an extension of financial aid for businesses such as shuttered bars and restaurants — which cost around 15 billion euros ($17.8 billion) this month. Areas with lower infection rates could potentially ease restrictions early.
The number of cases in Germany has tripled since the start of October to more than 900,000, and the amount of people with 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.
Merkel has said the seven-day incidence per 100,000 citizens needs to come down to around 50 before the latest curbs can be eased. 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.”