The course has now been officially set: the lockdown in Germany to contain the corona pandemic will be extended by three weeks to March 28th – in principle. Because the federal and state governments agreed on Wednesday evening in a nearly nine-hour video conference at the same time, further small steps towards opening: From March 8, a maximum of five people from two households will be allowed to meet again. In addition, book and flower shops as well as garden centers are now classified as “retail stores for daily needs”.
They can therefore be opened under hygienic conditions like supermarkets. Further opening steps are made dependent on the course of the infection in a step-by-step plan. The retail trade could therefore open at least for date shopping from March 8th. For the Easter days, the appeal continues to forego “travel that is not absolutely necessary”. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the state prime ministers decided on Wednesday in Berlin in hours of negotiations.
Emergency brake when the number of infections increases
The step-by-step opening strategy with a built-in emergency brake was agreed: If individual loosening leads to a sharp increase in the number of infections in a region, all the alleviations that have already been made are automatically canceled. At a seven-day incidence of 100 or more, openings are withdrawn and the lockdown rules apply again. On March 22, the federal and state governments want to discuss again.
At a press conference, Merkel spoke of a “transition into a new phase”. This should not be accompanied with carelessness, “but with justified hopes”. It is now a matter of “taking the next steps wisely”.
In regions with a seven-day incidence of less than 35 new infections per week, you can also meet your own household with two other households with a total of a maximum of ten people. Children up to 14 years are exempt from this. What is new is: “Couples are considered to be one household.” So far, a household in Germany can meet with a maximum of one person from another household.
Further measures are to be added to the “national test strategy” by the beginning of April: staff in schools and in childcare as well as all pupils are to be offered at least one free quick test per week of attendance. Companies should also offer this to their employees who are present. There should be an agreement with the business community by the end of the week. All citizens without corona symptoms should be able to take a quick test free of charge through their municipality. The federal government will assume the costs from March 8th. A “test logistics task force” is intended to ensure the “greatest possible availability and rapid delivery of rapid tests”.
If the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants (seven-day incidence) on three consecutive days increases to over 100 within seven days, contacts are again limited to one household and one additional person. This “emergency brake” should also apply to other opening steps.
SECOND OPENING STEP (from March 8th): After the first openings in the school area and for hairdressers, book shops, flower shops and garden centers are now also to open their doors again subject to hygiene requirements and customer number limits. This also applies to body-hugging services as well as driving and flight schools, but there, daily quick or self-tests for customers and a test concept for the staff are prescribed.
THIRD STEP (from March 8th at the earliest): Further opening steps are made dependent on the course of the infection. With a seven-day incidence below 50, the federal states could open retail stores, museums, galleries, zoos and memorials under certain conditions, and non-contact outdoor sports would also be allowed. With incidence values between 50 and 100, these areas should only open to a limited extent: In retail, for example, only appointment shopping offers would be allowed (click and meet). Customers would have to book an appointment beforehand. The same would apply to museums. If the seven-day incidence rises to over 100, the emergency brake applies with a return to the lockdown rules.
FOURTH STEP (from March 22 at the earliest): The prerequisite for this is that the seven-day incidence in the state or region has not worsened for two weeks after the third opening step. If the incidence is below 50, outdoor restaurants, theaters, concert and opera houses and cinemas are allowed to reopen. Contactless sports indoors and contact sports outdoors are also allowed. With an incidence between 50 and 100, outdoor catering could only be allowed with an appointment. Daily quick tests or self-tests are required for theaters, cinemas and the like. If the incidence is over 100, the emergency brake will apply again.
FIFTH STEP (from April 5th at the earliest): This in turn assumes a seven-day incidence that has been stable for at least two weeks since the fourth opening step – arithmetically, April 5th at the earliest. If there are less than 50 new infections, outdoor leisure events with up to 50 participants and indoor contact sports could be permitted. In this phase, which is advanced in time, the retail trade is likely to open at an incidence between 50 and 100 under the same conditions as in the third step for under 50. If the incidence rises to over 100, the emergency brake applies again.
PERSPECTIVE: Openings in the gastronomy, culture, events, travel and hotels sectors will be discussed in the next round on March 22nd. Citizens are still called upon to “refrain from traveling in Germany and abroad that are not absolutely necessary”. Employers are requested to allow their employees to work from home until April 30, provided that the activities allow it. (apa)