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German doctor warns against easing Christmas lockdown

November 27, 2020

"It is not a good idea to allow 10 people to come together at Christmas," top German physician Dr. Uwe Janssens told DW. He expects a spike in COVID-19 infections after the holidays.

Chocolate Santas wear masks
Image: Christoph Hardt/Geisler-Fotopress/picture alliance

Uwe Janssens, president of the German Interdisciplinary Association of Critical Care and Emergency Medicine, told DW on Friday that easing lockdown restrictions would put a huge strain on the health care system.

"We currently have infection rates above 20,000 per day," Janssens explained. "And although we have a lot of intensive care beds in Germany, there is a great strain on the intensive care units at the moment."

This week, Germany announced an extension of lockdown measures until December 20. But restrictions are expected to loosen over Christmas, allowing more family members to meet.

"We understand that people will meet together, but we really think it is not a good idea to allow 10 people to come together," Janssens said, citing the number that Chancellor Angela Merkel mentioned in her announcement of the way forward on Wednesday.

Read more: Opinion: Germans ready to avoid a superspreader Christmas

Dr Uwe Janssens
Dr Uwe Janssens thinks the Christmas easing of lockdown will lead to a spike in infectionsImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Families at risk

The chancellor urged people to voluntarily self-isolate before seeing relatives at Christmas, especially if visiting vulnerable people, and asked employers to show flexibility at that time of year.

But Janssens still believes that family gatherings could be a catalyst for infections.

"We fear there will be new and rising infections in these families," he said. "We know that will happen. We know it from Thanksgiving Day in Canada (October 12), where families came together. And as a result, infection rates rose up again."

Many opponents of the relaxed restrictions say that Germany's intensive care units will be overwhelmed, which Janssens expects.

"We will have a heavy load afterward, two weeks later on intensive care units," he explained. "The pandemic is not over here."

Restrictions until 2021

Germany passed more than a million cases since the pandemic began on Thursday. While the exponential rise in cases appears to have been curbed for now, daily infection rates and deaths remain high.

Restrictions are expected to remain until at least January, according to officials, with certain decisions handed down to local authorities.

There is still a chance the Christmas mini-amnesty, currently slated to last from December 23 to January 1, will be revoked.

Kommentarbild PROVISORISCH Elliot Douglas
Elliot Douglas Elliot Douglas is a video, audio and online journalist based in Berlin.