Covid-19 update in Germany: new regulations after online general summit
Updated: Jan 23, 2021
Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel and the Länder (federal state) heads of government met at a video conference on Tuesday 19 January to discuss the current measures in Germany that aim to slow the spread of the coronavirus. While there seems to have been a quick consensus regarding an extension of the lockdown, other topics, specifically regarding the organisation of schools and chidcare centres, seem to have been more contested. After hours of discussions and a delayed press conference, Merkel, Berlin's Regierender Bürgermeister Michael Müller and Ministerpräsident Markus Söder announced the new regulations.
Originally, the next conference was planned for 25 January. However, the mutation of the virus, as it has emerged mainly, but not only, in the UK and Ireland and which has also been recorded in Germany already, gives cause for concern. As Merkel stated during the press conference in the evening of 19 January:
“We must act now, and that is what has moved me in any case, but also all of us during the deliberations today. Now is the time to prevent the danger inherent in this mutated virus. It is therefore a matter of precaution.
That is why we have once again deliberated today and also decided on additional measures and restrictions in order to once again significantly accelerate the decline in the number of infections in Germany. This is what it is all about.”
Photo: © Bundesregierung / Kugler
In the following a summary of the Bund-Länder-Beschluss (the resolution between the Federal Government and the federal states) from 19 January:
All measures that were originally planned to be in force until 31 January, are extended until 14 February.
Reduction of private contacts
The rule for private contact restrictions stays the same: one household plus one extra person from another household. However, the Bundeskanzlerin and the heads of government appeal to the people for reducing all contact moments to an absolute minimum.
Wearing medical masks
Wearing a medical mask, thus a surgical mask or an FFP2 or KN95/N95 mask is now obligatory when making use of public means of transport as well as in shops. In general it is also advised to wear medical masks in situations when a longer or closer contact to others is inevitable.
Reducing contact moments on public transport
A formulated goal is the reduction of contacts in public transport in such a way that the amount of passengers are reduced, so that maintaining a safe distance is possible. This aim should be reached by:
making more use of home office possibilities in order reduce passenger numbers during rush hours of commuter and student traffic;
where necessary and possible make use of alternate transportation;
the obligation to wear medical masks in public transport.
Closure of schools and childcare centres
The resolution from 13 December 2020 about the closure or, respectively, the suspension of compulsory attendance in schools, will be extended until 14 February. The same counts for childcare centres.
Retirement homes, care facilities, facilities for people with disabilities
Next to retirement homes and care facilities, do facilities for people with disabilities also count as places that are in special need of protection. Therefore, it is important that sufficient testing can be undertaken in these facilities as well. For care providers of integration assistance, the Bund assumes the personnel costs for the testing. For the material costs, the regulation already made in the Coronavirus-Testverordnung (corona virus test regulation) applies.
Services in churches, synagogues and mosques as well as gatherings of other religious communities are only permitted under the following conditions:
the minimum distance of 1.5 metres is maintained;
the obligation to wear a medical mask, also when seated, must be followed;
congregational singing is prohibited;
gatherings with more than 10 participants must be notified to the responsible Ordnungsamt (municipal public order service) at least two working days in advance unless general arrangements have been made with the relevant authorities.
Working from home
In order to reduce contacts at work and on the way to work, the Ministerium für Arbeit und Soziales (Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs) will issue a decree, for the time being limited until 15 March, according to which employers must allow employees to work from home wherever possible, provided that the activities allow it. Where on-site presence is still required, the occupancy of rooms must be reduced. Where sufficient distances are not possible, medical masks, which will be provided by the employers, must be worn.
Bund and Länder stick to their goal of offering vaccination to all residents of care facilities by mid-February at the latest. Unexpectedly and at far too short notice, the Bund and the Länder were informed last Friday [15 January] via the European Commission that Pfizer / BioNtech will not be able to fully meet the already promised quantity delivered for the next two to three weeks due to reconstruction work at the Puurs plant. According to Pfizer, the purpose of the refurbishments is to increase capacities from mid-February. It has now been promised that the quantities announced for the first quarter will be delivered in the first quarter despite these refurbishments. Based on this as well as the prospect of approval of other vaccines, the Bund holds on to the goal to do everything possible in order to make a vaccination offer to every resident until the end of this summer.
On Thursday 21 January, a digital European Council will take place during which the vaccinations as well as mutations will be thematised. Comparable and synchronised measures to detect and contain viral mutants and to reduce the occurrence of infection, in order to avoid entry restrictions between the European countries but also other neighbouring countries, such as Switzerland, will be promoted at the council.
Additionally, in the Bund-Länder-Beschluss it is noted that Landkreise (rural districts) and Länder with higher incidence rates will continue to take additional local and regional measures according to the Infektionsschutzgesetz (Infection Protection Act), that go beyond the general regulations.
Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel closed her speech with the following words:
“What we have to demand from the people again is hard. However the precautionary principle has priority for us. We have to take this into account now, and we have taken it into account today.”