Düsseldorf 100,000 small businesses are getting promises of help from the state of NRW. Ten patients from Italy and France are also receiving help. An all-clear on the corona front is not yet in sight, but now is the time for strategic thinking, says Armin Laschet, NRW State Premier.
The people of NRW have been largely disciplined in following the corona guidelines over the weekend. In the political debate that has now begun about when normality will return, NRW State Premier Armin Laschet (CDU) does not yet see the time for an all-clear. But now is the time to "develop standards for the return to social and public life, so that this decision is also based on transparent criteria," Laschet stressed his position in an article in the "Welt am Sonntag" newspaper.
Since the weekend, ten seriously ill corona patients from Italy and France have been treated in NRW - for the state premier this is an act of solidarity, sending a signal to the countries severely affected by the pandemic: "You are not alone.” The NRW emergency aid package for small businesses and self-employed persons also kicked into gear on the weekend. A flood of applications was received, thousands of which were already approved on the weekend as well.
Laschet urged that we already need to start thinking about a strategy for a future relaxation of rules that have been imposed during the corona crisis. “To say that it is too early to think about an exit strategy is wrong," he said. One has to consider a time when the "rigid measures" will have showed some results. Those measures in NRW are initially to run through April 19. By then it should be clear how things will continue.
Number of new infections declines slightly
Even though the number of new infections detected throughout the state fell below the 1,000 threshold at the weekend according to the NRW Health Ministry - experts say a longer period of time is needed for an evaluation. The number of infections in NRW rose from Saturday (11:30 a.m.) to Sunday (11:30 a.m.) to 13,630, an increase of 886 cases.
The population takes the corona situation and the rules seriously: On Saturday the nice weather attracted a lot of people outside. There was quite a lot going on at Cologne's Grüngürtel and on the Rhine promenade, for example. But apart from minor misdemeanors, according to the authorities, people complied with the regulations - even in Düsseldorf, Essen and Münster.
Over the weekend, however, the Dortmund police had to crack down on motorists who used the relatively empty streets for speeding and were sitting in their cars with more than the two people allowed. Excuses such as "we were hungry" were not accepted by the police and a fine of 200 euros was imposed on the four occupants of a car from Recklinghausen.
Numerous companies threatened with insolvency
In the meantime, the corona crisis is hitting all sectors of the NRW economy with full force, as a quick poll of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHK) in North Rhine-Westphalia showed. According to the survey, every fifth company reports business losses of more than 50 percent. 14 percent are seriously threatened with bankruptcy.
With the launch of the NRW emergency aid package, small businesses, freelancers and self-employed persons began applying for emergency financial aid from the state over the weekend. According to the North Rhine-Westphalian Economic Ministry, more than 150,000 applications were received as of Friday afternoon, about 100,000 of which were approved over the weekend. Hundreds worked extra shifts to process the applications.
Farmers are also struggling: they are urgently looking for planting and harvesting helpers. The corona travel bans for harvest workers have left a gap of about 45,000 agricultural workers, the state government announced. Although several thousand volunteers have already signed up to help with the asparagus harvest following calls from several agricultural groups, many more helping hands are still being sought.
Thanks to hospitals in Bonn
A hopeful chapter may have begun this weekend for a total of ten seriously ill corona patients who were brought to North Rhine-Westphalia for treatment from areas in Italy and France severely affected by the pandemic.
Laschet thanked those involved for demonstrating European solidarity: "Thanks to our clinics in Essen, Bochum, Cologne and Bonn, to all doctors, nurses and pilots for demonstrating European solidarity in difficult times", he tweeted. According to the State Chancellery, the University Hospital of Münster admitted two corona patients from the Netherlands.
(Orig. text: dpa, Translation: Carol Kloeppel)