Germany’s state and federal governments agreed on Tuesday to extend and expand coronavirus lockdown rules in the country.
The current lockdown regulations, including the closure of schools, will now be in place until at least January 31, and new rules have been introduced.
“We must be especially careful now. We are in a new and extraordinary situation,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a press conference announcing the new rules, adding that the new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus made the situation more urgent.
What are the new rules?
Hotspot travel ban: Under new regulations, residents of areas deemed coronavirus hotspots will be restricted from traveling more than 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from their town without a valid reason. Day trips are specifically ruled out.
At the time of the announcement, about one in six German districts had incident rates over the hotspot threshold of 200 cases per 100,000 residents over seven days.
Private meeting limit: Additionally, contact at private meetings will be restricted to just one other person not living in the same household.
Double testing: People arriving in Germany from high-risk areas will be required to submit two negative test results. A minimum five day quarantine period will be mandated, even if the first test is negative.
Extra leave for parents: Parents will receive an extra 10 days leave to look after children, while single parents will receive an extra 20 days.
What are the current rules?
- All nonessential shops and services remain closed.
- Day care centers are closed, but parents can take paid holidays in order to look after their children.
- Employers are encouraged to allow employees to work from home.
- People are not allowed to drink alcohol in public.
- Religious events in churches, synagogues and mosques may take place if they follow hygiene rules, but communal singing is not allowed.
- Private meetings were restricted to a maximum of five people from two households. That has now been reduced.
- Schools are largely closed and students are taught through distance learning.
Merkel said it was likely that only priority groups would be able to receive a vaccine in the first quarter of 2021. She estimated that enough vaccine stock to vaccinate more people would only arrive in the second quarter. All residents of care homes should be vaccinated by mid-February.
Merkel reinforced her support of the European Union strategy of securing vaccines for the entire bloc, saying it made no sense for Germany to act alone in this matter.
The state and federal governments will meet again on January 25 to reassess.
Authorities hope the lockdown will bring down the infection rate enough to restart effective contact tracing — the high number of infections has made contact tracing impossible. An acceptable infection rate for this would be 50 cases per 100,000 residents in a seven-day period.
Germany recorded almost 11,900 new infections within the past 24 hours, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). There were 944 COVID-19 deaths over the same period. The seven-day incidence for the whole country was 134.7 on Tuesdsay.
However, figures from the past days in Germany likely underrepresent the situation due to the holiday period and numbers will likely jump back up.