Angela Merkel’s ultimatum: Beat second coronavirus wave or face clampdown

Germany considers tough new restrictions as Covid cases surge

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a face mask frowns as she arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the Chancellery in Berlin, on October 14, 2020.  / AFP / POOL / Michael Kappeler
Powered by automated translation

Angela Merkel put Germans on notice that tough new restrictions are on the way if they do not halt a worsening second coronavirus wave.

The chancellor is proposing to introduce compulsory mask-wearing in all spaces where people gather in groups, as well as a curfew for restaurants and the closing of bars and clubs in areas with high infection rates, according to a draft document of her plan.

She is meeting state governors on Wednesday to outline her proposals.

The critical meeting comes a day after Mrs Merkel told the EU that Europe needs to learn from the mistakes made when the pandemic first hit.

She told member states: “We need to show that we have learnt our lesson.

“We have to ask the people of Europe to be careful, to follow the rules, to keep their distance, to cover their mouths and noses and to do what they can to contain the virus while still maintaining economic activity.”

Mrs Merkel’s proposed restrictions would kick in once an area records 35 cases per 100,000 people over seven days.

Previously, Germany used a yardstick of 50 new infections per 100,000 as the threshold for when tougher restrictions would apply.

The chancellor has repeatedly urged her country not to squander its early success in keeping numbers manageable.

She said keeping schools open so that the country's youth would not lose more education time, and ensuring that most of the economy can keep going, are her priorities.

The draft proposal takes aim at private gatherings, which it notes can help to propagate the virus, and makes an appeal to citizens to "critically weigh up in each case, whether, how and to what extent private parties are necessary and justifiable given the virus situation".

It also warned that further restrictions could be imposed if new cases are not contained.

The draft paper says: “It is now up to us to have a positive influence on the infection process in Germany. But this requires great determination and the will of society as a whole.”

Meanwhile, German health authorities revealed a vaccination campaign could be just months away.

Asked when Germans could expect to be vaccinated, health minister Jens Spahn said: “I assume that we would be able to start in the first quarter of next year.”

He also said Germany had ordered six million additional doses of flu vaccine to prevent the dual threat of flu and Covid.

The country of 83 million will have 26 million flu jabs – nearly double last year’s supply.

Health authorities said the country might experience delays to delivery of the flu jab but promised there would be no supply shortages, unlike Britain, where major pharmacy chains are restricting the jab to over-65s.