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COVID in Germany: Bavaria and Saxony cancel Christmas markets

The southern German state has also imposed a lockdown on all districts that have a seven-day COVID incidence rate of over 1,000 per 100,000 people. In Saxony, a curfew for unvaccinated in hotspots is being imposed.

Watch video 02:25

German Christmas markets to be canceled?

Bavaria announced on Friday that it's canceling all Christmas markets in the state because of soaring coronavirus infections.

The state government has also imposed a lockdown on all districts that have a seven-day COVID incidence rate of over 1,000 per 100,000 people.

In those places, bars, clubs and restaurants, as well as cultural and sport venues will be closed, said state Premier Markus Söder after a meeting of his Cabinet in Munich. 

"The situation is very, very serious and difficult," he said, adding: "We have a clear goal: fighting corona, protecting people and protecting the health care system." 

Schools and kindergartens, however, will remain open. 

At present, eight districts in Bavaria have incidence rates of over 1,000.

Bavaria had a weekly incidence rate of 625.3 recorded infections per 100,000 people on Friday, according to the Robert Koch Institute infectious disease center, well above the nationwide figure of 340.7 — an all-time high for the country. 

Watch video 02:16

COVID: Germany's nurses and doctors pushed to their limits

State premier calls for mandatory vaccination

Söder said there will be a "de facto lockdown" for unvaccinated people by implementing the "2G" rule across the state — referring to the shorthand in Germany for a rule that allows freedoms like access to restaurants and hotels only to those who are either vaccinated or have recovered from COVID. 

About 90% of COVID patients in hospitals are unvaccinated, Söder pointed out. "Being unvaccinated is a real risk," he emphasized, noting that unfortunately the vaccination rate in the south of the country is historically lower than in the north.

As per the new rules, the unvaccinated will lose access to even places like hairdressers, universities or adult education centers.

There will also be contact restrictions for the unvaccinated, the premier said, noting that they will be allowed to meet with a maximum of five people from two households.

Söder also called for mandatory COVID vaccination starting from next year, arguing that it will become an "endless cycle" otherwise.

What additional restrictions will come into effect?

Even in areas with incidence rates lower than 1,000, there will be restrictions. 

For sports and cultural events, the number of spectators will be limited to 25% of the venue's total capacity. In addition, the "2G+" rule will apply — meaning even the vaccinated and recovered people will be required to produce an additional negative COVID test result.

Even though retail stores will not be closed, there will be a limit on the number of customers allowed inside: one customer per 10 square meters (108 square feet).

All retail outlets and restaurants will also have to be closed by 10 p.m. (2100 UTC).

The state legislature is expected to approve the new measures on Tuesday and they will likely be in effect until December 15.

Saxony applies new restrictions

To the north of Bavaria, the eastern state of Saxony on Friday announced widespread public restrictions to start Monday and remain in place at least until December 12 to combat a surge in COVID cases.

Christmas markets throughout the state, including one of Germany's largest in Dresden, are canceled.

Bars, nightclubs, gyms, museums and many other public venues must close. Retail stores and restaurants may remain open until 8 p.m. under the "2G" rule. Schools and daycares will remain open. Sporting events can continue, but without an audience.

Watch video 02:28

Why are COVID case numbers so high in Germany's Saxony?

"The measures are tough but necessary," said Saxony State Premier Michael Kretschmer on Friday, adding the state needs to "break the wave" of infections.

There will also be a night curfew in place starting Monday from 10:00 p.m. to 6 a.m. in districts with seven-day incidence rates of 1,000 cases per 100,000 people, said Saxony's social affairs minister, Petra Köpping. There are currently two districts in Saxony with seven-day incidence rates topping 1,000/100,000.

Health officials say the COVID surge in Saxony can be attributed to the state's lagging vaccination rate, which with less than 58% of the population fully vaccinated, is the lowest in Germany.

Is Germany on the brink of lockdown?

Talking to DW, German Green Party lawmaker and doctor Paula Piechotta warned Germany is "very close" to needing a general lockdown.

"If a lot of legislators and deciders don't act, a general lockdown will be necessary," she said.

Piechotta also warned that this step would have "huge side effects" both for society at large and for certain vulnerable groups such as children and elderly people suffering from dementia.

In contrast, making vaccination mandatory will have less of an impact, she said.

wmr, sri/rt (dpa, AFP, epd)

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