Berlin Germany's streets are empty - and now politicians across the country are imposing drastic measures in the fight against the coronavirus. But there is no curfew.
In order to contain the corona crisis, gatherings of more than two people will be prohibited throughout Germany. Excluded are relatives living in one’s own household. All restaurants and hairdressers must close.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the state premiers agreed on these measures in a telephone conference on Sunday. “A person is allowed to be in public spaces only on their own, or with members of their own household or with only one other person not living in the same household”, the resolution states. The measures are to apply for at least two weeks.
North Rhine-Westphalia's State Premier Armin Laschet (CDU) said that a nationwide curfew was not preferred at present. "In our estimation, it is not leaving one's home that is the danger. The danger is close, direct social contact." Fines of up to 25,000 euros could be imposed for violations of the new rules. A "zero tolerance policy against violators" will apply, Laschet said.
In Germany, more than 24,100 novel coronavirus cases had been reported by Sunday. More than 90 people infected with Sars-CoV-2 have died in Germany so far. The new stricter rules are intended to prevent a rapid spread of the virus, so that hospitals can maintain a sufficient amount of intensive care beds for patients who are critically ill as a result of the virus.
According to the decree issued on Sunday, people in Germany are urged to reduce contact with people who are not members of their own household. This should be kept to an absolute minimum. In public, wherever possible, people who don’t live together must maintain a minimum distance of at least 1.5 meters.
A curfew, which has been repeatedly mentioned in recent days, is explicitly not being imposed. "Of course” it is still possible to leave home for those who must go to work, receive emergency care, do necessary shopping, visit the doctor, participate in conferences, keep necessary appointments and sit exams, help others or do individual sports and exercise in the fresh air - as well as other necessary activities.
However, groups of people celebrating in public places, but also in apartments and private facilities are unacceptable. "Violations of the restrictions on contact (with other people) will be monitored by law enforcement authorities and penalties will be issued in the event of violations.” The resolution does not specify the penalties.
Cafés, restaurants and pubs are closed nationwide from now on. "Gastronomy businesses will be closed," the resolution states. Delivery and pick-up of take-away food is still permitted.
Hairdressers, massage parlors, tattoo studios and similar personal hygiene service providers will have to shut down. Medically necessary treatments remain allowed.
A general closure of shops or production facilities is not planned. "In all businesses, and especially those open to the public, it is important to comply with hygiene regulations and implement effective protective measures for employees and visitors," said the federal and state governments.
There were voices critical of Bavaria's rush to ban people from leaving their homes, and as a result the federal and state governments have now announced closer cooperation. But further regulations based on regional or state needs or epidemiological situations remain possible. The chancellor said these are indeed "very drastic measures". But they are necessary and proportionate.
The Chancellor and the heads of government emphasized: "We must do everything we can to prevent an unchecked increase in the number of cases and to keep our health system working efficiently.”
Verdi boss Frank Werneke told the German Press Agency (dpa): "We welcome the fact that the risks are now finally being reduced and that hopefully the situation will soon be more uniform across the board". In particular, gloves and protective masks need to be made available. "We expect employers to ensure that sufficient protective distances are maintained - wherever possible - in offices, factories and administrations."
Stricter bans on leaving homes in individual states of Germany were largely complied with on Sunday. According to police in Bavaria, there were only isolated incidences of violations. Similar reports were received from other states.
Lower Saxony's State Premier Stephan Weil (SPD) opposed curfews, as he told the newspaper "Welt am Sonntag". "Just imagine that families with several children in cramped apartments without a balcony and backyard would not be able to go out in the fresh air at all”.
According to reports, the discussions on Sunday were marked by heavy clashes between Bavaria's Minister President Markus Söder (CSU) and NRW's head of government Armin Laschet. According to the report, Laschet attacked Söder because he had imposed a Bavaria-wide lockdown “without consultation". This was reported by the newspaper “Bild".