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Will Germany lock down until Christmas?

November 22, 2020

Germany's November lockdown to tame the coronavirus spread should be extended into December, two senior politicians suggested. Regional state premiers will debate further steps with Angela Merkel on Wednesday.

Weihnachten Coronavirus
Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire/empics/picture-alliance

Germany's November lockdown, often called "lockdown light" as schools, stores and many businesses remain open, could need to be extended into December, even toward Christmas, to hold the spread of the coronavirus in check, Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Bavaria's state premier, Markus Söder, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

The duo, key voices in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government, made their hints ahead of further pandemic crisis talks next Wednesday involving premiers of Germany's 16 states, which in the country's federal system are tasked with implementing measures. 

Scholz, a member of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and also Germany's finance minister, said, "Everything suggests that the current restrictions [on interpersonal contactsmust be extended for a while beyond November 30." 

Read more: Parliament adopts revised pandemic law, protests outside

"In any case for two or three weeks," said Söder, who serves as chair of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

Looking truth in the eye 

The public "must look the truth in the eye. It is simply not enough yet," Söder told BamS, saying intensive care wards were again stretched while Germany exceeded its benchmark of 50 people newly infected per 100,000 population within seven days. 

Currently, the level nationwide lies around 140, although localities have varied markedly

"In order to spend a pleasant Christmas, we have to extend the lockdown and certainly deepen it," said Söder while urging citizens to avoid festive season trips and alpine apres-ski gatherings. 

A third coalition government appeal in BamS came from Rhineland Palatinate's state premier, Malu Dreyer, like Scholz an SPD veteran, who said she hoped gains from staying isolated during the current lockdown would enable people to meet their "loved ones" at Christmas and New Year's.

Scholz intimated that it was "for me clear" that state subsidies for proprietors, businesses and cultural sector artists and performers in November could be extended into December.

"It's about safeguarding livelihoods," said Scholz. "We must, in this case, act pragmatically, nonbureaucratically and wisely."   

Inexact subsidies? 

Friedrich Merz, one of at least three candidates pitching to lead Merkel's CDU during Germany's 2021 general election year, accused Scholz of enacting overhasty subsidies to pandemic-hit businesses.

"Of course, you have to help the people affected, without question. But turnover is the fuzziest gauge when compensating for the loss of earnings," the financier and former leader of the CDU parliamentary group told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

ipj/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)