Lockdown in Germany Amid Second Wave of Covid-19

by Thorsten Koch

From this Monday, November 2, restaurants and pubs in Germany will not be allowed to open to dining guests. Sports facilities, swimming pools, museums, cinemas and theaters, as well as other entertainment venues, will remain closed. In addition, hotels will not be allowed to accommodate tourists. However, schools, daycare centers, trades, and retailers will remain in operation. This initially applies for four weeks, until there will be new consultations in two weeks. Companies affected by the pandemic shall receive compensation of up to 75 percent of their losses.

Chancellor Angela Merkel promised that help to companies affected by the lockdown would be fast and unbureaucratic. The Federal and State Governments made 10 billion Euros available for this cause. Government officials also want to give cultural workers a hand. “I assure you: the Federal Government will continue to do everything necessary to limit the burden of the pandemic on the economy and thus also on jobs and our prosperity, while at the same time protecting the health of all of us,” emphasized Merkel. Merkel called the measures against the pandemic suitable, necessary and proportionate. The alternative – complete isolation of individual risk groups – was not implemented for ethical reasons, she indicated.

Binding rules

According to the Minister of State in the Federal Chancellery, Braun, one had to prioritize restrictions due to the rapidly increasing number of infections. Authorities called on people to forego unnecessary leisure activities for in the recent past, many were infected this way. “We will of course not carry out any checks in private rooms by default,” reassured Braun. However, stricter controls, more regular controls, would be put in place for those who did not want to abide by the rules. The “rules are serious, they are binding and they must be adhered to”, added Braun.

Half of Germans consider the new measures to contain the pandemic to be appropriate – especially pensioners (69 percent) and supporters of the SPD (71 percent), of the CDU/CSU (65 percent) and the Greens (62 percent). This is according to a Forsa survey commissioned by RTL Germany. For a total of 33 percent of Germans, the measures go too far. The closure of sports facilities is supported by 65 percent, the closure of restaurants by only 39 percent. 55 percent believe that cultural institutions are justified in closing. Half of the respondents believe that the measures can effectively reduce the increasing number of Corona cases.

The opposition accused the Federal and State Governments of not being sufficiently prepared for a second wave of the Corona pandemic. Anti-Corona measures should be taken by a political vote in parliament. The SPD, as well, called for a greater role for parliaments in the Corona crisis. The legal policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Fechner, said that the restrictions which have been adopted represent significant encroachments on fundamental rights and must be carefully examined. For legal security, laws must therefore be passed at federal and state level.

Cities welcome measures

The German Association of Cities welcomed the renewed measures to contain the pandemic. “The cities consider the tightened federal and state measures to be tough but correct, suitable to slow down the rapid increase in Corona infections,” said Burkhard Jung, President of the City Council and Mayor of Leipzig. What was needed was “massive support from society as a whole in the coming weeks so that we can keep the pandemic manageable and not lose control.” The effectiveness of the rules must be checked in two weeks. Jung welcomed the fact that the economic consequences for institutions, companies and the self-employed would be cushioned.

The virologist at the Berlin Charité Clinic, Christian Drosten, welcomed the decision not to close schools during the Corona crisis. There were now stricter rules, especially the mask requirement. However, Drosten gave reason to think that the pandemic will not be over by Easter 2021. “But by next summer, at the latest, our lives will be able to change significantly for the better – if we can get the acutely increasing numbers of infections under control now.” With rapid tests, risk groups can now not only be tested for infection, but also whether someone is infectious for others, Drosten welcomed. The Bonn virologist Streeck, on the other hand, called for a long-term strategy, beyond a four-week period.

Several medical associations had sharply criticized the course of the Federal and State Governments. In a position paper that was signed by general practitioners, specialists, general practitioners, laboratory doctors, dentists, and contract doctors, the focus on the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days was spoken out against. Other medical treatments should not be omitted during the crisis. In addition, it was lamented that there are contradictions due to social deprivation and breaks in education and in vocational training. In contrast, the chairman of the German Ethics Council, Buyx, said the new Corona measures are ethnically justified. “We have a situation in which it is relatively easy to foresee that in a few weeks we would be overloaded with the health system. You just have to change direction,” she explained. The position paper of the doctors’ associations “does not come at the right time” and does not offer any alternatives.

Preventing further tightening

CDU-CSU group chairman Brinkhaus deems it possible that the new Corona measures will even have to be tightened before Christmas. However: “A lot will depend on whether everyone goes along with it. We have a good chance of being able to forego further tightening,” said Brinkhaus. The plan is to lower the restrictions again in December. “We have to fight,” appealed Brinkhaus. If the chosen course “leads to disappointments and injustices in individual cases, I really regret it”. It is of the order to limit contacts in order to curb the growing number of infections. “First, we now need new economic growth. This will enable us to generate more tax revenue in the long term, secure jobs and relieve social security,” explained Brinkhaus. He rejected proposals to raise taxes for high earners.

In order to get the Corona pandemic and future catastrophes under control, Brinkhaus also calls for more centralism and for certain State Government competencies to be transferred to the Federal Government: “If it is in the interests of the people to locate more responsibilities with the Federal Government, we should do this.” In Germany, the system is and remains federal, but it was designed in 1949. In 2020 people are living in a changed and different world. “I am in favor of putting Federal-State relations to the test in the event of a crisis as part of a Federalism debate,” said Brinkhaus.

More nursing staff needed

Saarland Prime Minister Hans also warned of a future collapse of the health system and in many of the 1,900 hospitals that operate in Germany. In some cases, clinics are no longer open, wards are be closed and emergency rooms logged off. “The reason for this is missing or sick nursing staff,” said Hans. Berlin has only 14 percent free intensive care beds, Bremen a mere 17 percent. Due to the situation, Hans advocates a rescue package for the clinics: “They urgently need support.” In particular, this requires a foster care program and fees to be compensated.

The health authorities in Germany also report an increasing burden. Many have applied for help from the Bundeswehr, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. In Rhineland-Palatinate, for instance, “almost all of the health authorities” receive help from other state employees. Others among the health authorities can only process cases with a delay. The head of a health department in North Rhine-Westphalia pointed out that thanks to such support, the contact persons of infected people were continually tracked.

Meanwhile, Federal Justice Minister Lambrecht and Federal Minister of the Interior Seehofer have written to the Prime Ministers of the Federal States, calling for the Corona rules of November 2 to be implemented quickly and courageously. If the measures are less strong, the infection rate could intensify rapidly – with many serious illnesses, deaths and a lack of capacities in the health system.

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