In Germany, Angela Merkel and her colleagues from the federal states prolonged the country’s lockdown yet again. They also tightened the rules.
Berlin, January 19th, 2021, update January 20th, 2021, 6:14 a.m. (The Berlin Spectator) — Chancellor Merkel and Germany’s First Ministers discussed the Corona situation and its implications for the second time this year, during an online conference. In spite of the decreasing number of new Corona infections, they added strict, new rules. Their goal is to get the numbers down further and to prepare for a possible spread of more contagious versions of the Coronavirus.
New Mask Rule
> The lockdown was prolonged until February 14th, 2021. Additional rules apply. A task force is supposed to develop an “opening strategy” for businesses and other establishments.
> The contact restrictions remain the same, meaning people may gather with persons from their own household and one person from another. Everyone is being asked to keep the number of households from which they see those persons to a minimum.
> What masks are concerned, self-mades ones, scarfs or simple masks made of cloth will not suffice anymore in public transport and shops. People will need to wear medical masks, meaning the kind of masks doctors usually wear in emergency rooms, or European standard FFP2 masks. Apart from this rule, the use of these kinds of high quality masks is recommended in all situations in which people are in contact with each other, especially indoors.
Schools Remain Closed
> Schools and kindergartens will mostly remain closed until February 14th, also because the Coronavirus variation B 1.1.7 seems to be spreading quickly among children and adolescents, according to studies. The Conference of Ministers of Education is being asked to develop a concept for reopening schools and kindergartens once the Seven Day Incidence Numbers in the federal states drop below 50.
> In retirement and foster homes, residents are supposed to be protected more. Caretakers have to wear FFP2 masks. Both the staff and visitors need to be tested for Corona infections before they enter. In the case of caretakers, those tests need to take place several times per week. Soldiers and volunteers are supposed to help retirement and foster homes.
> Prayer services in churches, mosques, synagogues or other temples are legal as long as those involved keep 1.5 meters (5 feet) of distance. Singing is not permitted. If more than 10 people participate, the local health authority has to be notified first.
Home Office Work
> An ordinance is supposed to make employers let their employees work from home whenever possible. The idea is to make sure less people are in contact with each other. Employees who cannot work from home have to be separated by plastic walls between their desks. Labor Secretary Hubertus Heil is working on the ordinance.
> The number of passengers in public transport is supposed to be decreased. Adding more vehicles is part of the plan.
> Students will be asked to help local health authorities trace back Corona infection chains.
> Even with Seven Day Incidence Numbers below 200, counties and cities may put in place stricter measures in order to get it down below 50.
> Until mid-February, all residents of retirement and foster homes who want to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are supposed to be vaccinated. The government will send reliable delivery times for vaccines to the federal states.
‘It Is Time to Act’
After the Corona conference, Chancellor Angela Merkel stated the number of new Corona infections was reason for hope. On the other hand, the meeting on Tuesday had taken place because of newly discovered, dangerous mutations of the Coronavirus. Preventive steps were necessary.
According to the information available, the mutated version of the virus spread quickly, the Chancellor explained. Some cases of the new variant had been confirmed in Germany. It was time to act, Mrs. Merkel said. That was why new measures and restrictions were being put in place. The Chancellor said, the mutated version of the Coronavirus had less chances to spread with lower infection numbers.
This latest Corona conference lasted for almost 11 hours. Some German-language media reported there had been a big argument regarding the schools. Curfews are not part of the additions to the rules. There are nightly curfews in some federal states, including Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Saxony.