A police car patrols the main shopping street which remains empty after 10 p.m. during a nighttime curfew during the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic on April 24, 2021 in Cologne, Germany.
Andreas Rentz | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Germany has put in place strict lockdown rules in a bid to curb a third wave of infections, with a package of new measures expected to last until June.
Protests were seen in several German cities after restrictions were introduced this weekend on coronavirus hotspots in the country.
A curfew, limits on customers in stores, closures of recreation centers and limits on family contact are among the measures.
Germany is struggling to suppress a third wave, largely attributed to the spread of a more infectious strain of the virus that first emerged in the UK last fall.
By adopting a so-called ‘nationwide emergency brake’, cities or districts that exceed a seven-day incidence rate of 100 new infections per 100,000 population over three consecutive days must now implement the locks.
Schools must close if incidence rates exceed 165 new cases per 100,000 population for three consecutive days.
Data from the Robert Koch Institute, the German public health body, shows that all but one German state is above the emergency brake trigger threshold and seven states have an incidence rate greater than 165. The national seven-day average of cases per 100,000 population stood at 169.3 on Monday.
The measures, set out in the Infection Protection Act, effectively expand the federal government’s power to control the pandemic, which is considered controversial by many. So far, German states have largely been able to set their own rules, leading to variation across the country, with some states reluctant to impose more stringent measures despite a surge in infections.
Nevertheless, the measures – and, in particular, the curfew, which will last from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and only allows people to leave their homes if they have to go to or from work, seek medical assistance. or walking a dog – have caused anger among some members of the public, with small demonstrations taking place in several cities over the weekend, including Frankfurt and Hanover.
‘Do what is necessary’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the new rules in her weekly video podcast and urged the public to comply.
“If we are now successful in reducing infections significantly and rapidly, step-by-step easing will be possible for the foreseeable future,” she said.
“Let’s do what’s necessary again and together show consideration and responsibility.”
“What we are hearing from doctors and nurses are real cries for help,” she said. “We – the state, the society, the citizens – we all have to help,” she added.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper he did not believe the measures would be relaxed until the end of May, while German Health Minister Jens Spahn told the German Parliament, the Bundestag , that “the situation is serious, very serious.”
While vaccinations and testing provide a way out of the pandemic, only “reduced contact and therefore reduced transmission of infection” can contain the third wave, Spahn said.
The new measures could further weaken the popularity of Merkel’s conservative ruling alliance, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and her sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
A second election poll has now put the Green Party ahead of the CDU-CSU bloc. Kantar’s poll for Bild am Sonntag put support for the Greens at 28%, a percentage point above support for the CDU-CSU. If the positive momentum of the Greens continues and is confirmed in the September federal elections, the Greens could be the most powerful influence in a likely coalition government with the Conservative bloc.