BERLIN – New restrictions “not tough enough to avert disaster”, says Merkel

In what has been referred to as the “most important summit in months”, Germany’s federal government and states negotiated well into Wednesday night, but initial reports announced that the group had reached a partial agreement for unified coronavirus measures. However, Merkel believes that the measures do not go far enough.

The new coronavirus restrictions generally apply in areas with high levels of infection, which have 50 infections per 100,000 people over a seven day period. In these districts, there will now be curfews after 11pm, which will require both bars and restaurants to close.

New restrictions limiting the number of people at public gatherings to 10 will also apply. If this does not stop the spread of infection, the number will be further reduced to five people from two households, and restrictions will also apply to limit private household gatherings to 10 people from two households.

In areas with 35 new infections per 100,000 over the course of seven days, there will be an extended requirement for mask wearing to also include crowded public spaces.

However, Germany’s federal government and the states were unable to find an agreement on the controversial ban on accommodation, which some states have already implemented. The rules prohibit those from high-risk areas from staying over in hotels or other accommodation unless they can produce a negative coronavirus test that is no more than 48 hours old.

The new prohibition has had many critics. According to reports from the German Press Agency, North-Rhine Westphalian leader Armin Laschet (CDU) pleaded with his colleagues against the ban, claiming it was an unnecessary strain on the country’s testing capacities.

SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach has also been critical of the policy, claiming that tourists are not the source of the rising infections. “No study shows that travel within Germany is a pandemic driver. So I am not solving a problem with these rules, because there is no problem there,” he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday (12 October).

Even though there has been progress on nationwide restrictions, Chancellor Angela Merkel was not pleased with the meeting.

“The announcements we have made are not tough enough to avert disaster. Then we’ll just sit here again in two weeks. It is simply not enough what we are doing here. The basic mood is that everyone is looking for a little loophole. That’s what worries me. And the list of health departments that don’t make it is getting longer and longer,” participants reported her as saying.

The news of the agreement was followed by an unfortunate milestone, as the Robert Koch Institute announced the most new infections in one day since the start of the pandemic early on Thursday morning (15 October).

(Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de)

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