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Germany: Merkel Announces Corona Rules for December

At a press conference in Berlin, Angela Merkel explained the decisions she and the First Ministers from Germany’s federal states took regarding the Corona rules. Some of them had leaked beforehand.

Berlin, November 25th, 2020, updated November 26th, 2020, 06:55 a.m. (The Berlin Spectator) — Chancellor Merkel and the First Ministers took several decisions regarding the Corona restrictions until New Year’s Day. It took them many hours to reach an overall consensus during their deliberations. There are no big surprises.

New Threshold

Angela Merkel, Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller and Bavaria’s First Minister Markus Söder were present at the Chancellery while the other fourteen First Ministers and First Mayors were connected online.

These are the decisions they took:

> Federal states with Seven Day Incidence Numbers that exceed 200 are supposed to have tighter restrictions. The states themselves decide about the details. States with less new Corona infections can ease their restrictions, once they reach a level below 50. The Incidence Number shows how many persons were infected with Corona per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days.

Contact Rules

> The partial lockdown continues and the contact restrictions apply the following way: Until December 22nd, up to five people from up to two households may meet. From December 23rd to January 1st, for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, this rule will be eased. Ten persons may gather during that time period. Children below the age of 14 do not have to be counted.

> Large retail businesses have to allocate 20 square meters (215 square feet) to each customer, smaller ones, with less than 800 square meters (8,611 square feet) of space, need 10 square meters (107.6 square feet) per customer. The very same rule was in place in April and May.

Support for Businesses

> The state will help businesses directly affected by the prolongation of the partial lockdown in December, including restaurants, pubs and cafés because they are still not allowed to open. Up to 17 billion Euro (20.3 billion U.S. Dollars or 15.1 Pounds Sterling) are available for this purpose.

> There will not be a general ban on fireworks or firecrackers on New Year’s Eve, but using them on highly frequented streets and squares will be forbidden. This rule was already criticized as too vague.

Tourism and Trains

> Ski tourism should be avoided until January 10th, 2021. The federal government agreed to work on a rule on the European level. Business and private trips, domestic and international ones, should not be taken either.

> For long distance trips, Deutsche Bahn passengers will be able to make reservations for window seats only. That way, train passengers can keep their distance from each other more effectively.

Schools and Offices

> What schools are concerned, “hybrid classes” are being encouraged from 8th grade. This means that less schoolkids will be taught on site and at the same time. More online classes are supposed to take place. In extreme infection situations, more steps should be taken at schools in the affected areas. No rules related to schools were actually changed. The federal states are responsible for education. Some refused to agree to nationwide rules.

> Employers are being asked to close offices or other locations between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, if possible.

> Persons who are part of “vulnerable population groups” will be provided with ‘FFP2 masks’.

Fates Behind Numbers

In the late evening, Angela Merkel said the deliberations had been detailed and constructive. She thanked everyone involved. The exponential increase of the number of Corona infections had been stopped. But this was a partial success only because the numbers were still high and there were many deaths.

The Chancellor mentioned the 410 Corona-related deaths within 24 hours the Robert Koch Institute had reported. Fates were behind this number. There were many mourning families, she said.

Two Messages

Mrs. Merkel said she intended to convey two messages. First of all she wanted to thank the large majority of people in Germany who had followed the Corona rules. Secondly, the situation still did not allow a lifting of the restrictions. The goal to get the Seven Day Incidence Number down to 50 had not been reached, she explained. That was why the health authorities could not trace back all infections to their source.

The government was aware of the fact that December was a special month, because of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Angela Merkel stated. This aspect had been considered in the decisions that had been taken on Wednesday. She also said the year 2021 would probably bring relief and a vaccine.

Life and Death

Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller defended the Corona restrictions. He said one fourth of all ICU beds in the German capital’s hospitals were occupied by Corona patients. It was impossible to react indifferently in a situation like this one because there were tragedies behind the numbers. This was about life and death, and about protecting people.

According to Markus Söder, the danger posed by Corona is not gone. The infection numbers were sort of stable, he stated. But this was still the highest number of Corona cases Germany had ever had.