Germany braces for 'lockdown light' as coronavirus cases keep climbing

Jill Petzinger
·Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·3 min read

Watch: Germany reportedly considering nationwide lockdown

Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states on Wednesday to try and work out a common agreement on new COVID-19 lockdown measures, as daily new infections continue to soar in Europe’s largest economy.

The country has been praised for its handling of the first wave of the pandemic, but the second wave threatens to overwhelm it if the states do not unite behind new restrictions in November.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute reported on Wednesday 14,964 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Merkel’s proposals have been described as ‘lockdown light’ by German media, but the raft of potential restrictions on the table at the chancellor’s meeting today effectively constitute a second lockdown.

From next week, Germans can expect to be ordered to reduce contact with others to a minimum, reportedly to just contact with one other household. All domestic travel for tourism is reportedly going to be banned, and restaurants and bars closed. Shops, schools and kindergartens however would remain open unless there are local outbreaks.

READ MORE: German companies gloomy as COVID-19 infections surge

German chancellor Angela Merkel at weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany, on 21 October. Photo: Henning Schacht/Getty Images
German chancellor Angela Merkel at weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany, on 21 October. Photo: Henning Schacht/Getty Images

Merkel has used her weekly podcast this month to implore Germans to stay home and reduce contacts with others to a minimum, but her appeals appear to have gone largely unheeded as new daily infections have shot up to higher levels that during the first wave of the pandemic.

Merkel warned last month that Germany could hit 19,000 cases a day by the end of the year — and was accused of exaggerating. However, with new cases last week surpassing 11,000 on most days, Merkel’s prediction seems conservative.

READ MORE: Germans urged to stop stockpiling toilet paper amid growing lockdown fears

Economy minister Peter Altmaier said Germany would probably reach 20,000 new infections per day by the end of this week.

State and business leaders have been keen to avoid lockdowns as the economy struggles to recover. The Ifo Institute said today that the number of people on short-time work had fallen a little in October, but was still at just under 3.3 million.

Germany’s infection rates are still considerably lower than Spain, France, and the UK, but the worry is that the country’s health system will be overwhelmed if cases keep rising.

"If we wait until the intensive care units are full, it will be too late," said health minister Jens Spahn in an interview today. Spahn tested positive for the virus last week and is currently in quarantine.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care in Germany climbed from about 400 at the beginning of October to 1,470 this week.

French president Emmanuel Macron is also expected to announced a second lockdown in France today.

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