Coronavirus: Germany to impose one-month partial lockdown
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced tough new measures from Monday, November 2, in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. But will the German people be compliant?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany's state premiers announced on Wednesday a new partial lockdown to begin on Monday, November 2.
The so-called nationwide "lockdown light" is a less intense version of the measures that brought German society and economic activity to a standstill in the spring.
Shortly after Merkel's announcement, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a new lockdown across France.
New restrictions for the next month
- Restaurants and bars will close, except for take-away
- Large events will be canceled again
- Unnecessary travel is strongly discouraged
- Overnight stays in hotels for tourist purposes is banned
- All those who can work from home should do so and employers should ease a transition into working from home
- Meetings in public will be restricted to just two households of up to 10 people total.
- Entertainment facilities such as theaters and cinemas will be closed
- Public recreation centers such as swimming pools, gyms and saunas will be closed
- No crowds at sports events
What is allowed
- Schools and kindergartens will remain open
- Church services and protests will be allowed to continue due to constitutional concerns
- Nursing home residents will be allowed to receive visitors
- Shops will remain open, with one customer allowed per 10 square meters (108 square feet)
- Borders remain open
Merkel said in a press conference: "We are in a very serious situation."
"We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency."
She said the number of people in intensive care units has doubled in the past 10 days, and that in many areas it was no longer possible to track and trace infection chains. In 75% of cases, the source of infection is unknown.
"If infections continue at this rate, we will be at the limits of the capacities of our health system," she said.
"That is why this is a difficult day today, also for political decision-makers, I want to say this explicitly because we know what we are putting people through," she said.
State and federal leaders will meet again in two weeks to assess if the new measures are having enough of an effect, and recalibrate if needed.
Merkel promised that firms hit by the new measures would receive economic support. Companies with up to 50 employees and the self-employed will receive 75% of their income in support.
"We will compensate affected companies, institutions and clubs," she said.
According to media reports, a total of €10 billion ($11.8 billion) has been earmarked for support.
Larger companies will be reliant on EU rules for assistance and this will vary from company to company.
Emergency loans will be made available for self-employed workers such as artists and stage hands, while small businesses with less than 10 employees will gain access to very cheap loans.
Until now, Merkel's government has enjoyed high levels of support for the measures put in place to tackle the pandemic and Germany has fared relatively well compared to many of its European neighbors.
But public mood has been shifting and criticism among the population of government-ordained measures is on the rise.
Wednesday saw Germany's highest rate of new daily infections yet — over 14,000 — and the latest figures show that only around 33%* of Germany's intensive care beds are still available.
Compared to the beginning of October, 5% more people now say that the measures currently in place do not go far enough (32% in total), according to the statistics agency Infratest. At the same time, the number of people for whom the measures go too far increased by 4% to 15% of people in total. A slim majority (51%) feel that the current measures are sufficient, but this number is 8% less than at the start of October.
Some of those who vehemently oppose further restrictions are fearful of the economic impact. Many Berlin restaurant owners, for example, have said they would probably have to close down their business if faced with a second lockdown. They have already seen losses after the closure in the spring, followed by rules that forced them to adhere to social distancing regulations and then the curfew imposed last month.
Several news outlets also reported that financing the new measures would push the amount of debt Germany was in for 2021 well over €100 billion ($117 billion). Finance Minister Olaf Scholz had planned a sum of €96 billion to help businesses ride out the pandemic next year, but the new aid package could cost €10 billion more.
The opposition pro-business liberal Free Democrats have spoken out against another shutdown of the hospitality sector. "I believe it is unnecessary and unconstitutional," party leader Christian Lindner wrote on Twitter before Wednesday's meeting.
For many in Germany, the question of individual freedom is at least as important as a thriving economy. Leaders of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is the largest opposition party in the German federal parliament, have been among those the most widely critical of further restrictions.
"No measures — including lockdowns — have had a demonstrable influence on the infection rate, but the lockdown fantasies of government politicians are becoming increasingly absurd," the AfD parliamentary leader Alexander Gauland said in a statement on Tuesday.
Read more: False alarm? Confusion about EU COVID-19 threat levels
Germany has seen anti-lockdown protests in recent months, with some groups protesting under the banner of "Querdenker" — people who "think outside the box." A demonstration in Berlin at the weekend coincided with an arson attack on the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's public health agency — although no suspects have yet been identified.
Protesters espousing conspiracy theories and far-right groups have joined the demonstrations, drawing criticism and ridicule from the left and more liberal quarters. But surveys show that there is a growing number of people critical of restrictions, who believe that fighting the virus should be a question of personal responsibility. The most recent survey shows that a narrow majority of Germans agree with this view: 54% compared to 43% who say authorities should put restrictions in place.
Berlin vs. the states
As Germany is governed by a federal system, one of the key questions during the pandemic response has been how much of a say the central government in Berlin should have, as health policy is the mandate of the 16 states. This has led to a "patchwork" of regulations across the country, with travel bans or curfews in some places and no restrictions in others. The new lockdown measures are designed to counter this.
The most recent survey shows over two thirds (68%) of people want regulations to be unified across the 16 states. Additionally, 78% said they wanted the states to "work more closely together" in pandemic response.
There have been calls for the parliaments at federal and state levels to be involved in decision-making, with MPs from all political parties speaking out against decision-making behind closed doors.
The cruise ship MSC Orchestra makes its way down the Giudecca Canal in the early morning. Early risers in Venice woke up on June 3, 2021 to the sight of a cruise ship sailing down the Giudecca Canal for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the Italian governments' promises to reroute the huge ships due to safety and environmental concerns.
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will open its hotels to tourists from Germany on June 4. From June 11, day visitors to the northeast will also be able to return. Owners of vacation homes and boats, as well as long-term campers from outside the state, will already be allowed back on May 28. Tourists must present a negative coronavirus test upon arrival, which must be updated every three days.
For the first time in six and a half months, France’s cafés and restaurants are once again allowed to open their outdoor areas. As of Wednesday (May 19), non-essential businesses and department stores, as well as museums, cinemas, and theaters have also reopened. The nighttime curfew across all of France is now in effect from 9pm – two hours later than its previous start time.
Austria from Wednesday (May 19) will allow entry from Germany without quarantine. Mandatory, however, remains a proof of vaccination, a negative test or full recovery from a COVID infection. "In many states, the infection rates are declining, so in parallel with the opening up steps in the country, we can also implement facilitation of entry into Austria," said Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein.
Portugal is easing its entry restrictions for travelers from most EU countries. People from EU countries where the COVID-19 infection rate is below 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a 14-day period will be allowed back into the country, even for "non-essential" purposes. However, testing is strictly mandatory.
Francina Armengol, the President of the Balearic Islands, has issued a preliminary rejection of any hopes for parties on the island of Mallorca this summer. “We can only start to allow places to open and nightlife to return once we have a higher vaccination rate”, Armengol said. Responsible tourism will be prioritized. “Nightlife will follow, but later, and probably not this summer.”
Munich's Oktoberfest will be canceled for a second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was made by Bavarian state Premier Markus Söder and Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter. "In the classic beer tents at the big festivals, social distancing, masks and other measures are practically impossible to implement," Söder said. Reiter said canceling the Oktoberfest again was a great pity.
Following the third wave of the coronavirus in Italy, the Vatican Museums reopened on Monday (May 3). About 1,000 visitors registered for the first day alone, said Barbara Jatta, director of the museums. It was a "great joy" to finally no longer only be safeguarding the works of art, but also to be able to share them with others again, she said.
The U.S. has heightened its travel warnings on account of the coronavirus pandemic, now additionally advising against travel to Germany and other EU countries – where the U.S. State Department's has applied its red-alert level. This represents the highest of its four risk-advisory levels for travel. At the third level, previously in force, the advice was only to reconsider any planned travel.
Starting at the end of May, Israel wants to let tourists with a Covid-19 vaccination back into the country. Tourists will have to comply with the requirements, which include proof of vaccination and negative Covid-19 test results. After the pandemic broke out, Israel had effectively isolated itself, with foreign citizens only allowed into the country in exceptional cases.
Starting May 14, Greece plans to open its borders to vacationers from EU countries as well as from some other countries such as Great Britain and Serbia, to save the domestic tourism sector. Travelers will be allowed to enter the country for a vacation without having to undergo quarantine. They will, however, require travelers to either be vaccinated or show a negative PCR test.
As of April 1, foreign travellers are permitted to enter Croatia again if they can present evidence that they have been vaccinated against coronavirus. In addition, anyone who has a negative PCR test or an antigen test or can prove that they have recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months may also cross the borders. Before, you had to present a negative PCR test or quarantine for ten days.
Malta is rapidly progressing with COVID-19 vaccinations and plans to open to tourists on a large scale from June. The island is focusing primarily on outdoor activities such as scuba diving. A total of 20 million euros will be invested in the reopening. Air and sea passengers with vaccination passes will then be allowed into the country, while all others will still have to present a negative test.
On March 22, the entry rules into Germany were tightened again. After tourist travel to Germany had already been made unfeasible due to the coronavirus pandemic, in future travelers returning to Germany will also have to have a COVID test before departure - irrespective of the infection situation in the country of departure. The Infection Protection Act is to be amended accordingly.
The German Foreign Office removed its travel warning for Majorca on Sunday (March 14). You can now visit Majorca again without needing to quarantine or take a test once you’ve returned to Germany. Bookings have increased significantly, and more flights are being added. The other Balearic islands as well as parts of the Spanish mainland are also no longer considered coronavirus risk regions.
Norbert Fiebig, president of the German Travel Association (DRV), has urged that it is "time for a coordinated approach to restore safe travel." He is counting on vaccination certificates and rapid coronavirus tests – strategies also promoted by politicians. The EU decided on February 25, for instance, to have introduced standardized vaccination passports for travelers by the summer.
Greece and Israel signed an agreement (Feb 9) to that will allow vaccinated tourists to travel between their two countries withthout restrictions. In Europe, whether vaccinated people should be the first to be allowed to travel again is controversial. While Germany is still reluctant, some countries already allow easier entry with a vaccination certificate, including Estonia, Poland and Iceland.
Just how disastrous the 2020 travel year was is made clear in the latest survey by the UN tourism organization UNWTO: 74% decline in global tourism worldwide, with over a hundred million jobs tied to it. Forecasts for 2021 also remain cautious in the face of travel restrictions. The emerging trends are home-based holidays, nature-based vacations, and more interest in sustainable travel.
Hundreds of millions of Chinese are currently seeing their travel plans put on hold for the Chinese New Year on February 12, with flights and train services canceled on Thursday, especially in Beijing, at the start of the most important travel season of the year. Across the country, people are being asked to refrain from traveling to prevent a major outbreak that could lead to "massive lockdowns."
Israel is largely suspending its international flights for nearly a week. The flight suspension goes into effect at 00:00 local time on Tuesday (Jan. 26) and will remain in effect until Sunday. The measure is intended to prevent coronavirus strains from entering the country. Up to 40 percent of new cases in Israel are due to the British COVID-19 mutation.
Ten months after the border closure, international tourists can travel to Sri Lanka again. As confirmed by officials on Monday (Jan 18), travelers will be able to re-enter the island from Jan. 21 if they comply with strict security regulations, present a negative PCR test and stay in a quarantine hotel for 14 days.
Despite extended coronavirus restrictions in Italy, as of Monday (Jan 18), museums and exhibitions in some regions will be able to reopen. This rule applies to the so-called Yellow Zones, where the coronavirus infection situation is less tense. Among others, the Archaeological Park in Pompeii is again able to receive visitors because it is located in the yellow region of Campania.
New Zealand is setting up a "travel bubble" with neighboring Australia. After months of border closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, New Zealand will once again allow tourists from Australia to enter the country without quarantine requirements in the New Year. New Zealanders have been able to travel to Australia again since October without having to go into quarantine.
On Saturday (December 5) the first Aida cruise ship is scheduled to leave for a one-week trip to the Canary Islands. The ship, designed for 3300 passengers, will reportedly be 50 percent full. All passengers will need to provide a negative coronavirus test, no more than 72 hours old. On board, strict hygiene and distancing rules apply, and only guided shore excursions will be possible.
Australian airline Qantas wants to introduce compulsory vaccination for intercontinental flights. "We will require international travelers to be vaccinated before we allow them on board," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce stated. The general terms and conditions would be adjusted accordingly. Whether this will also be a requirement for domestic flights has not yet been decided.
Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca city in the Peruvian Andes mountains, has reopened almost eight months after it was closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Peruvian authorities organized an Inca ritual to mark the reopening. To allow for distancing, a maximum of 675 tourists per day are allowed to enter the old Inca city. That is less than a third of the normal number allowed.
Rio de Janeiro's famous annual Carnival spectacle will not go ahead in February. Organizers said the spread of the coronavirus in Brazil made it impossible to safely hold parades which with some seven million people celebrating are a cultural mainstay, tourism magnet and, for many, a source of livelihood. Brazil has the second highest death rate in the world after the United States and India.
To curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic the German government has announced though new measures to start Monday, November 2. The new restrictions effect the travel business as overnight stays in hotels for tourist purposes will be banned, entertainment facilities such as theaters and cinemas will be closed as will bars and restaurants, which will only be allowed to offer take out services.
The city announced on Monday (Oct.26) that this decision had been made in view of the rapidly increasing number of coronavirus cases. The mayor explained that it was to be assumed that in the near future the Covid-19 traffic light in Nuremberg will change to dark red. "Against this background, we think it would be the wrong signal to go ahead with the annual Christkindlesmarkt Christmas market.
The cruise industry has decided to make coronavirus testing mandatory for all guests and crew members aboard cruise ships. The Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest such organization, announced on October 8 that passengers can only board ships by providing proof of a negative test result. All member shipping companies worldwide must now comply with this rule.
In the wake of significant increases in coronavirus infection figures in Europe, Berlin has announced further EU countries as risk areas for travelers. In addition to Belgium and Iceland, additional areas of France and Great Britain, including all of Northern Ireland and Wales, were also classified as risk areas on September 30.
India's most famous building was closed for six months, but since Monday ( September 21) it can be visited again, under strict restrictions. Only 5000 online tickets will be issued per day. There are temperature checks at the entrance. Selfies are allowed, group photos are prohibited. The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is normally visited by 8 million people every year.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism sector has suffered a loss of 460 billion dollars (388 billion euros) from January to June, the World Tourism Organization reported in Madrid. The loss of sales was five times higher than during the international financial and economic crisis of 2009, and the total number of tourists worldwide fell by 65 percent in the first half of the year.
The German government has extended its travel warning for around 160 countries through September 30. The advisory applies to "third countries" — i.e. countries that are not members of the EU or associated with the Schengen area. From October 1st, a "differentiated system" will apply, in which individual travel and safety information will be given for each country.
Australia has extended its travel restrictions for a further three months. The borders will remain closed for visitors from abroad until at least December 17. However, the government announced that domestic travel will soon be allowed for residents of the country. An exception will be the state of Victoria, with its metropolis Melbourne, for which a lockdown has been in place since early July.
The German government has extended the travel warning for around 160 countries outside the European Union by two weeks until September 14. A spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry explained the move on Wednesday (Aug 26) with rising coronavirus infection rates. "The situation will not relax sufficiently by mid-September to be able to lift the worldwide travel warning," she said.
Anyone entering Germany from a high-risk area must take a coronavirus test from August 8, after an order by Health Minister Jens Spahn. Currently, many countries are classified as risk areas, including the United States and Brazil. In the European Union, Luxembourg, the Belgian region of Antwerp and the Spanish regions of Aragon, Catalonia and Navarre were risk areas as of early August.
Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten has stopped all cruises on August 3 until further notice after an outbreak of the coronavirus on one of its ships. At least 40 passengers and crew members on the Roald Amundsen tested positive for COVID-19. Meanwhile, German cruise line Aida Cruises has also postponed its planned restart due to the lack of necessary permits.
A European role model?
Despite the increasing infection rates, Germany still stands on good ground compared to other European countries. Even with the high daily infection figures seen in late October, in terms of cases per 100,000 inhabitants Germany remains well below rates in Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Belgium.
France and the UK are among the countries that have introduced partial or localized lockdowns in recent weeks in an effort to curb the number of cases. Germany is hoping to take action before cases reach the rates seen there, in two of the worst-affected nations in the world.
Germany's relatively strong acceptance of measures up until now may have been key in the low infection and death rates. But surveys show that 50% of Germans believe that efforts by police and authorities to enforce the restrictions have not gone far enough.
The challenge is to make sure the German people accept the new measures — and to enforce them. Relying on goodwill and compliance, as the chancellor called for in her most recent video podcast, may not go far enough.
*This article previously stated 25%. It has been amended based more precise calculations.