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German minister wants to get tough on COVID-19 rule breakers

August 1, 2020

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier is calling for tougher penalties for those not adhering to coronavirus rules. The number of daily new confirmed cases in Germany has been on the rise over the past several days.

A doctor holding a test tube with a swab for a coronavirus test
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Pedersen

In light of rising COVID-19 infections in Germany, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he wants tougher penalties for coronavirus rule breakers.

"Anyone who deliberately endangers others must expect that this will have serious consequences for him," Altmaier told the DPA news agency. "We must not jeopardize the recovery that is just beginning by accepting a further increase in infections."  

The number of daily new confirmed infections in the country has been on the rise over the past several days. The figure increased by 955 over the past 24 hours, to a total of 209,653, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The reported death toll rose by 7 to 9148, the tally showed.

On Friday, the number of new infections registered was 870.

Read more: Coronavirus: With EU open for travel, who can go where?

Lothar Wieler, the head of RKI and the country's top health official, sees the trend in new cases as "very worrying." Wieler attributed the climb in cases to some sections of the general public becoming negligent on hygiene and physical distancing rules.

The vast majority of the population continues to act responsibly, Altmaier said. "What we are currently experiencing in terms of an increase in risk is essentially due to the careless and sometimes irresponsible misconduct of a very small number of people," the minister said.

"We have to prevent this more effectively than before and act effectively in cases where there are infections and outbreaks: This includes fines and penalties if it is a matter of intent or gross negligence."

COVID-19 quick survey in Berlin

Another lockdown fears

The rise in infections has also raised fears of another lockdown, which could dim prospects for a quick economic recovery

Germany's gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by as much as 10.1% in the second quarter of 2020, the "sharpest decline since the quarterly GDP calculations for the country began in 1970," the Federal Statistic Office said on Thursday.

The chief minister of Saxony-Anhalt state, Reiner Haseloff, warns against a new lockdown.

"We cannot afford a second lockdown," Haseloff told the newspapers of the Funke Mediengruppe media company Saturday.

"Our economy would hardly be able to cope with that and in the end, it would also have a negative effect on the welfare state and its stability," he said. 

Haseloff said that when new infections come to light, a "quick, low-threshold and differentiated reaction at the local level" is required.

The head of the Association of German Cities, Helmut Dedy, called for delaying a "second wave" of infection as long as possible. "We must continue this strategy as long as possible to avoid a major lockdown that could affect an entire state or the entire country."

sri/rc (dpa, AFP)