Germany is expected to expand lockdown measures again today – and possibly even tighten some restrictions – as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to surge across the nation.
It comes after Paris and some other regions of France spent their first weekend under a limited month-long lockdown.
Now Chancellor Angela Merkel and 16 governors responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions in the decentralized country are holding a video conference almost three weeks after agreeing a step-by-step plan that paves the way for some rules to be relaxed .
Since then, infections have steadily increased as the more contagious variant, first discovered in the UK, has become dominant.
Most lock restrictions are currently in effect through March 28th. The law firm proposes an extension until April 18th.
Instead of taking new steps towards a more normal life, a focus now is on urging regional officials to use an “emergency braking mechanism” to reintroduce easings granted in recent weeks – such as the partial reopening of non-essential stores should if the weekly new infections in an area exceed 100 per 100,000 inhabitants on three consecutive days.
“Unfortunately we have to use this emergency brake,” said Ms. Merkel on Friday.
The weekly infection rate per 100,000 people nationwide on Monday was 107 compared to the mid-1960s three weeks ago.
Officials are also faced with what to do with the Easter break.
Restaurants, bars and many leisure facilities in Germany have been closed since the beginning of November and hotels are closed to tourists.
At the same time, due to the German criteria for assessing the virus situation abroad, a travel warning for parts of Spain was lifted at the beginning of this month, which led to a much-criticized increase in bookings on the popular holiday island of Mallorca.
It was requested that people returning from places abroad that are not considered “risk areas” must be subjected to mandatory tests and quarantine. The government has stressed that it continues to discourage tourist travel.
Meanwhile, after a slow start, Germany is trying to speed up its vaccination campaign.
On Friday, Ms. Merkel and the governors agreed to gradually bring ordinary medical practices on board shortly after Easter. Germany has so far largely relied on special vaccination centers.
By Saturday, 8.7% of the population had received at least one first dose of vaccine and 3.9% had received both doses.