• S. Loesser

Germany announces re-opening perspective in five steps

After another corona summit on Wednesday 3 March 2021 the Bund (Federal Government) and the Länder (federal states) agreed upon five re-opening steps in the corona pandemic. In the individual Länder, these should come into force dependently on the infection development in the respective Land.

Photo: © Bundesregierung

“Again, we stand at a new threshold, or a new phase of the pandemic.”,

said Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel open yesterday's press conference. Merkel went further to say:

“We can speak of hope and a transition to a new phase since we reached a lot in our country these past few months."

Merkel describes the next steps to be taken as:

“steps of opening and at the same time, steps that should not set us back in this pandemic.”

Two helpers have been described as being highly relevant in accompanying the new opening measures. These are the vaccinations and testing.


Vaccinations

  1. The interval between the first and the second vaccination with the respective vaccines (BioNTech, AstraZenica) should be used to the maximum. This means that the second vaccination should only be administered at the end of the approval phase (BioNTech: 42 days; Astra Zenica: 12 weeks). This allows to give more people the first vaccination dose more quickly.

  2. It will probably be the case that the ständige Impfkommission (permanent vaccination commission) will also allow AstraZenica for older age groups. The latest studies have provided evidence for this.

  3. In the case of vaccination appointments that may not be attended, a replacement management system should be developed. General practitioners can already be involved in the vaccination work via the Länder. This will also be stipulated in the Impfverordnung (vaccination ordinance), which will come into force at the beginning of next week.

  4. Work in the vaccination centres can be changed to a multi-shift system at any time and extended to seven days.

  5. At the end of March or beginning of April, the second strand to be established alongside the vaccination centres is the supply to general practitioners, in order to act even more flexibly.


Tests (rapid tests and self-tests)

The tests tell with good accuracy whether someone is contagious on the day the test is taken. Therefore, for that day, such tests can provide more security for social contacts. Above all, it is possible to filter out asymptomatic patients very well and thus prevent infection chains. These systematic tests should be used in addition to the rapid antigen tests that already exist.


Three pillars have been described:

  1. A free test, reimbursed by the Bund, for every resident once per week. This offer will be valid from 8 March and the respective test centres will be made available locally for this purpose.

  2. Testing in schools and day care centres: In part, testing is already being done with the conventional rapid antigen tests, which are also available in sufficient quantities. However, due to the technological innovations the self-tests will be much easier to use. When it comes to these tests’ procurement for the Länder, schools and childcare centres, Bund and Länder will set up a joint task force and commission platform providers to place orders and offers.

  3. Provision of rapid antigen tests for employees, both conventional and new types of test, depending on what is available. Talks about this topic will be continued on Friday 5 March.

With these helpers in mind, the following five opening steps have been agreed upon:


Opening step 1: schools, childcare centres, hair dressers

The first opening step has already been taken on 1 March. In view of decreasing infection numbers, sectors in school and childcare could be reopened. Also hairdressers have reopened nationwide under strict hygiene regulations. In addition, there are further individual openings in the Länder.


Opening step 2: book stores and close contact services

The second opening step is scheduled for 8 March. Bookshops, flower shops and garden centres are retail trade for daily needs. They can therefore also reopen with appropriate hygiene regulations and a limit on the number of customers. There should be one customer per 10 square metres for the first 800 square metres of selling space and one more person for each additional 20 square metres of selling space.


Also from 8 March, the previously still closed close contact service businesses as well as driving and flying schools can reopen with appropriate hygiene regulations. For services where a face mask cannot be worn permanently (such as cosmetics or shaving), a negative Covid-19 rapid or self-test by the customer, to be updated on the respective day, as well as a testing concept for the staff are prerequisites.


Opening step 3: retail trade, museums and outdoor sports

A third opening step is possible in the Länder from 8 March, depending on the infection events.


With a stable 7-day incidence rate below 50 new infections/100,000 residents:

  • Opening of the retail trade. Here, the number of customers in the shop is limited – to one customer per 10 square metres for the first 800 square metres of selling space and another person for every additional 20 square metres;

  • Opening of museums, galleries, zoological and botanical gardens and memorials;

  • Non-contact sports in small groups of no more than ten people in outdoor areas, including open-air sports facilities.

With a stable or decreasing 7-day incidence rate of less than 100 new infections/100,000 residents:

  • Retail can open with appointment shopping offers ("click and meet"): one customer per 40 square metres of selling space with an appointment booking for a limited period of time;

  • Museums, galleries, zoological/botanical gardens and memorials with appointment booking;

  • Individual sports with a maximum of five people from two households and sports in groups of up to 20 children up to 14 years of age – outdoors, also on open-air sports facilities.

A so-called emergency brake is provided for these cases: if the 7-day incidence rate per 100,000 residents rises to over 100 for three consecutive days in the Land or region, the rules that applied until 7 March will come into force again as of the subsequent working day.


Opening step 4: outdoor gastronomy, theatre, sports

The fourth opening step is dependent on the infection events and can take place if the 7-day incidence rate has not worsened for 14 days after the third opening step in the Land or region.


With a stable 7-day incidence rate below 50 new infections/100,000 residents:

  • Opening of outdoor gastronomy;

  • Opening of theatres, concert halls, opera houses and cinemas;

  • non-contact sports indoors, contact sports outdoors.

With a stable or decreasing 7-day incidence rate of less than 100 new infections/100,000 residents:

  • Opening of outdoor gastronomy with appointment booking. If people from several households sit at the same table, a daily negative rapid or self-test is required;

  • Opening of theatres, concert halls, opera houses and cinemas to visitors with a daily negative rapid or self-test;

  • Non-contact sports indoors and contact sports outdoors with a daily negative rapid or self-test.

The so-called emergency brake is provided for these cases as well: if the 7-day incidence rate per 100,000 residents rises to over 100 for three consecutive days in the Land or region, the rules that applied until 7 March will come into force again as of the subsequent working day.


Opening step 5: recreational events, retail trade, sports

The fifth opening step can take place – again depending on the infection event – if the 7-day incidence rate has not worsened for 14 days after the fourth opening step in the Land or region.


With a stable 7-day incidence rate below 50 new infections/100,000 residents:

  • Recreational events with up to 50 participants outdoors,

  • Contact sports indoors.

With a stable or decreasing 7-day incidence rate of between 35 and 100 new infections/100,000 residents:

  • Opening of the retail trade. Here, the number of customers in the shop is limited – to one customer per 10 square metres for the first 800 square metres of selling space and one more person for each additional 20 square metres;

  • Non-contact sports indoors, contact sports outdoors (without Covid 19 test).

Again, the so-called emergency brake is provided: if the 7-day incidence rate per 100,000 residents rises to over 100 for three consecutive days in the Land or region, the rules that applied until 7 March will come into force again as of the subsequent working day.

Image: Summary of the five steps opening perspective. © Bundesregierung


How it will continue:

The Bund and Länder plan to discuss the prospects for other sectors such as gastronomy, culture, events, travel and hotels at their next meeting, probably on 24 March. The launched testing strategy, vaccination, the spread of virus mutants and other influencing factors will be taken into account.


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