Merkel Plans Stricter Contact Rules to Stem Covid-19 Spread
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants further restrictions on public and private gatherings as the spread of the coronavirus is easing too slowly despite a partial lockdown since early November.
People from one household should meet publicly with a maximum of two people from another home, according to a draft paper quoted by several German media outlets. This is down from a previous limit of 10 people from two households.
The paper — prepared for Merkel’s talks with 16 regional premiers later Monday to review shutdown measures — also suggests making face masks mandatory in all schools and for all age groups and urges citizens to avoid private parties until Christmas.
Merkel last week opened the door to extending existing virus restrictions into December, but a decision on this is not expected on Monday. Over the weekend, she againwarned the nation about difficult winter months ahead, and her Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier, predicted that Germany will have to live with “considerable restrictions” for at least the next four to five months.
Merkel’s government imposed a monthlong, partial lockdown on Nov. 2. The restrictions are designed to limit social contact by closing bars and restaurants, while keeping most businesses operating.
While the rapid increase in new cases has slowed slightly, levels are still too high, Merkel said last week. In the past seven days, daily infections have risen at 17,189 on average, according to data fromJohns Hopkins University. This is down from 18,652 during the previous seven days.
Merkel has repeatedly urged Germans to abide by hygiene and distancing rules so that health-care services don’t collapse, calling the crisis the biggest test since World War II.
The government has warned that rapidly filling hospitals are threatening to stretch the health system to its limit. The number of patients being treated for the virus in intensive care facilities is at a record 3,394, according to the DIVI register of German ICU capacity. At the beginning of October, there were less than 400 Covid-19 cases in German ICUs.
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