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Coronavirus: Will Germany go into lockdown again?

October 28, 2020

The German government had hoped to avoid a second virtual standstill, for the sake of the economy as well as the people. But with rapidly rising coronavirus cases, a U-turn seems likely.

Two young Germans wearing mask
Image: Christoph Hardt/Geisler-Fotopres/picture-alliance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not hidden her deep concern about the swiftly increasing coronavirus infection rates in Germany. On Wednesday, the chancellor will meet the premiers of Germany's 16 states in a video conference to discuss the situation.

Ahead of the meeting, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said they would look at what the federal government and the states could do together in order to break the worrying trend. Everyone was aware that "every day counts."

Read more: Confusion about EU COVID-19 levels

In almost pleading tones, Merkel used her video podcast at the weekend to call upon Germans to keep their distance from each other, reduce all contact and stop traveling. On Monday at a meeting of her party, the center-right Christian Democrats, she described the situation as "highly dynamic" and "dramatic." Germany could soon be in a "difficult position" with regards to the number of intensive care beds, she added.

On Tuesday the country's disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 11,400 new cases — one of the highest daily counts since the pandemic began.

Local health authorities reach their limits

Merkel plans 'lockdown light'

According to the German tabloid daily Bild, Merkel will propose a type of "lockdown light" at Wednesday's meeting. Bars and restaurants would have to close as they did in the spring and large events would be banned. Schools and kindergartens would only be closed in areas with extremely high infection rates.

This would fit with what Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday: Additional measures are now necessary to curb the wave of infections.

"And they should be uniformly put in place across Germany and comprehensible for everyone," said Scholz.

Read more: Beat the coronavirus, by being quicker than your test

Recently, a plethora of different rules in each state has caused a feeling of uncertainty across the country.

'The smoldering fire has become a burning stove'

Berlin-based physicist Dirk Brockmann, who uses mathematical models to examine how infections spread, stressed the seriousness of the situation. "The smoldering embers of the summer have reignited to become a stovetop on fire that we have to bring back under control," he told DW.

He also believes it is very likely that people in Germany will have to get used to further strict restrictions. "Depending on the political decisions, we need to put in place another lockdown. The infection curves of every neighboring country show that this is the only way to get our infection curve under control and force a drop in new cases." The restrictions up until now, for example, a partial curfew in Berlin, have not curbed infection rates.

"We can make the comparison with Israel, where the second wave of infections began and then authorities tried a light lockdown — but it did not work," Brockmann added. "Only with a very strict, very short but nationwide lockdown can the numbers be brought down."

Read more: Long COVID — When patients don't seem to recover

People prepare for a lockdown

Leading virologists, epidemiologists, and other scientists who have advised the German government through the pandemic openly support the idea of a second, moderate lockdown. The experts have been near unanimous: Without a lockdown, the already exponential rise in coronavirus infections will be unstoppable.

Scientists believe it is likely that next week will see the daily infection rate reach 20,000 people. Barely two weeks ago, when infection rates stood at just over 2,000, Chancellor Merkel had warned that Germany could see 19,000 daily cases by Christmas — and was accused of fearmongering by her critics.

People in Germany appear to expect further restrictions. According to a survey by German press agency dpa, around two-thirds of those polled expect businesses, restaurants and schools to once more close because of the high number of cases.

This article was translated from German.

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Jens Thurau Jens Thurau is a senior political correspondent covering Germany's environment and climate policies.@JensThurau