German Corona Summit: Continued Social Distancing, Fewer Restrictions, and Regional Responsibility | GermanPolicy.com

The Coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, a globally rampant lung disease, has claimed almost 7,000 lives in Germany, by the beginning of May 2020. But the infection rate is down considerably. Germany is steering a risk-adapted strategy to master the corona crisis. In this context, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the Prime Ministers of the federal states decided on Wednesday that the state governments should be given more responsibility than previously, mainly as part of a relaxation course.

Advantages of the regional regulations: infections can be countered more precisely. On the other hand, easing should also be possible based on the situations which occur regionally, due to the fact that the infection dynamics are sometimes very different in different parts of the country.

After a federal-state summit by the Chancellor and the Prime Ministers, Merkel informed journalists at a press conference:

  • the requirements of social distancing, with a minimum distance of 1.5 meters, continue to apply
  • mouth and nose protection should continue to be used in public spaces, especially in units of public transport and in shops, and could perhaps be expanded.

Emergency Mechanism

Contact restrictions have been extended to June 5, but members of two households will be allowed to meet, not merely two individuals from two households. Shops will in future open without restrictions. From the second half of May, the German Bundesliga can hold its first games under certain conditions. Hotels and restaurants in the larger German holiday regions should open soon, children will go back to school and daycare, in many places.

An emergency mechanism will also be introduced. The corona restrictions are to be tightened once more if more than 50 newly infected people per 100,000 inhabitants are counted within a week, in either a district or a city.

The opposition partly criticized the course of the federal government and the states. Green party leader Anton Hofreiter said the situation could slip away because a “very wide corridor” had been targeted. He called for caution. In contrast, FDP leader Christian Lindner stated that the easing was overdue and the economy had to be started again. The party Die Linke criticized on the one hand that daycare centers were not yet fully open, and on the other hand criticized that the easing “could lead to a second wave”.

Regional Specificities

In the crisis, Baden-Württemberg would like to introduce a traffic light system in the coming week. This should give the general public guidance, said Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann (Greens). Mass events remained on red in the federal state.

The governing mayor of the city of Berlin, Michael Müller (SPD), mentioned an opening in the course of several phases. The distance and hygiene rules should be observed. The German Hotel and Restaurant Association should present hygiene concepts. The state sports association should develop hygiene regulations for Berlin’s sports clubs.

Childcare and Schooling to Resume

Childcare in the federal states is supported by a four-phase model that Federal Minister for Family Affairs Franziska Giffey (SPD) recently presented. Firstly, emergency care, secondly, extended emergency care for single parents, thirdly, limited regular operation and fourthly, the normal operation to be aimed at, depending on the course of the number of Corona cases.

School operations in Germany are scheduled to begin gradually on May 4, starting with the final grades. Exams have already been possible.

Intensive Care Assured

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) sees no bottlenecks in the care of corona patients in German intensive care units. It is crucial that the distance rules are respected. Social distancing could be the new everyday reality for several months to come. Easing factors are the infection rate, the number of cases detected, the respective severity of the disease, and the capacity of the hospitals in the different regions.

The reproductive rate depends on external factors and can fluctuate due to delays in reporting on public holidays. There is also an undisclosed figure, which is not taken into account in the official case number and which depends on the willingness to take tests, on test capacities and test criteria. Without measures, a patient in Germany would infect over two to three people. Measures always mean a certain risk. So far, the virus has been well controlled in Germany, according to the RKI.

All hospitals report the capacity of their intensive care beds to the central register, Divi. The register is almost unique worldwide. About one in five people who tested positive for the coronavirus had to be treated in hospitals. Cough and fever are the main indicators of the Coronavirus. The RKI estimates that around 135,100 people in Germany have survived the infection. It is assumed that many cases of recovery have not been recorded.

Reproduction Rate At 0.65

With a two-week delay, the Coronavirus reproduction rate is currently at 0.65, according to the RKI. This means that less than one person is infected per patient and the spread of the lung disease is slow.

At the beginning of April, Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) announced a normalization of German business processes. “Companies or industries that can demonstrate that they comply with hygiene or distancing rules could find it easier to find back to everyday life.”

In mid-April, the federal government had obtained that small businesses with up to 800 square meters of retail space could reopen under condition to deliver proof of a hygiene concept ensuring that the customer density was not too high.

Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip
6 May 2020

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