Tighter German Lockdown Looms as Virus Rates Remain High

Germany is looking to impose tougher measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic after a soft shutdown failed to bring contagion rates down to manageable levels.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday told legislators in the CDU-CSU parliamentary caucus that the current, partial lockdown will be insufficient to get Europe’s largest economy through the winter, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions who asked not to be named because they were private. A new strategy would have be mapped out with the heads of the country’s 16 states before Christmas, the person said.

Germany shut restaurants, gyms and cinemas, but allowed schools and most of the economy to keep running as it tried a softer approach than other European countries. The measures — in place since the beginning of November — have made little impact on the spread of the disease, even as the government spends more than 15 billion euros ($18 billion) a month to compensate affected businesses.

The nationwide seven-day incidence rate currently stands at a record of 146, compared with 120.1 at the start of the restrictions on Nov. 2,according to the Robert Koch Institute. The government’s goal is to lower the level to less than 50. Schleswig-Holstein in the north and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the east are the only German states under that level.

“Corona isn’t letting go and therefore we need to react,” Markus Soeder, Bavaria’s premier, said on ARD television on Monday. “I’m sure we’ll meet again before Christmas. The current system isn’t enough.”

Read More:Bavaria Tightens Covid Lockdown and Declares Disaster Situation

The home state of Siemens AG, BMW AG and Adidas AG will implement a state of emergency on Wednesday, restricting most people to their homes unless they have a valid reason. In communities with a seven-day incidence of more than 200, there will be a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. with even fewer exceptions.

Government Spokesman Steffen Seibert praised Bavaria’s move and said it is necessary for states to take additional measures to help bring down the virus numbers.

The so-calledreproduction factor, an indicator of how fast the virus is spreading, rose to 1.21 on Sunday, compared to 1.13 the day before. This means that 100 people with the virus will likely infect 121 others. The government has said a level below one is needed to prevent the illness from overwhelming hospitals. The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has been at record levels for weeks.

The 16 premiers need to be prepared to finance more pandemic-related aid and must rethink whether they want to loosen measures for Christmas and New Year’s, said Ralph Brinkhaus, head of Merkel’s CDU-led parliamentary caucus.

“That is highly risky,” Brinkhaus said.

Germany aims to vaccinate 10 million people in the first quarter of 2021, Bild newspaper reports, citing a draft of the government strategy. Medical staff in intensive care units, Covid testing facilities, nursing homes, as well as older risk patients would be first in line to receive the vaccine. Anyone residing in Germany is entitled to receive a vaccine in due course, the paper reported.

— With assistance by Raymond Colitt, and Birgit Jennen

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