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Germany: Merkel unveils new coronavirus measures

September 29, 2020

Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the heads of Germany’s federal states to chart a path forward to curb rising infections nationwide. They agreed to curbs on parties in areas of high infection.

Merkerl and state premiers go to a press conference to unveil coronavirus restrictions
Image: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture-alliance

Germany adopts 'hotspot strategy' for COVID-19 spikes

German Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined new coronavirus measures on Tuesday, following an emergency meeting with the heads of all 16 federal states. The meeting was called as infections rise across the country. 

Merkel said the goal of the new measures was for authorities to get ahead of rising infections and avoid another national lockdown. 

"We want to act regionally, specifically and purposefully, rather than shutting down the whole country again — this must be prevented at all costs," Merkel told a news conference. 

Merkel has warned that at the current rate of infection, Germany could see more than 19,000 cases per day by the end of the year. Over the past 24 hours, German health authorities have reported more than 2,000 new COVID-19 cases. 

"We have learned a lot and did well throughout the summer," Merkel added. But she noted that the rising infections ahead of autumn and winter were troubling.  

Read more: Berlin spike leads Chancellor Merkel to urge action

Curbs to parties 

The chancellor affirmed that the government’s top priority is to keep the economy, schools and daycare centers open and functioning. 

Among the measures announced on Tuesday are limits to the number of people at private and public parties.  

In areas that register more than 35 infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days, private parties will have a limit of 25 people, while parties held in public spaces are now limited to 50 people.  

Currently, each of Germany's 16 states sets their own limit on the number of people who can attend private parties and events at large venues. 

Weddings, parties and other private gatherings have been blamed for fueling a rise in COVID-19 cases across Germany. 

In North Rhine-Westphalia, the country's most populous state, an outbreak at a wedding in the city of Hamm caused over 100 people to become infected, including 40 children. 

Read more: Coronavirus: Global deaths pass 1 million mark

Limits to alcohol sales 

The 16 federal states will now have the option to impose time restrictions or temporary bans on the sale of alcohol in restaurants and bars, in an effort to curb infections.  

Bavaria's Minister-President Markus Söder (CSU) said it was part of his "triad" of measures. "More masks, less alcohol and less celebrations," Söder said. 

In terms of mask wearing, the federal and state governments flatly rejected any relaxation of hygiene measures, as well as social distancing. Mouth and nose coverings in certain public areas are expected to continue to be obligatorily, consistently controlled and sanctioned by authorities. 

Another measure to be added is a €50 ($58) fine for individuals who provide false information at restaurants and other indoor establishments, where it is currently required to leave contact information for tracing purposes. 

Travelers warned 

Merkel and the heads of the state governments urged citizens to refrain from travel to risk areas in the autumn.  

Several countries neighboring Germany, such as Belgium, Netherlands and France, have also seen cases spike. Merkel stressed that the German government would continue to work together with other EU countries on mitigation measures as well. 

The government is hoping to expand its testing strategy by introducing rapid test procedures, in particular, for returning travelers. 

The federal government is also advising, at the recommendation of the Robert Koch Institute, that people in health risk groups, those older than 60 years, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and medical staff, vaccinate themselves against the seasonal flu. The measure is meant to protect these groups from the danger of double infection. 

jcg/aw (dpa, Reuters, AFP)