Chancellor Angela Merkel and mayors of 11 large German cities have agreed on stricter controls for urban areas exceeding the government COVID-19 threshold. Berlin, Frankfurt and others have hit the warning level.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said new measures would be introduced for cities with coronavirus caseloads defined by the government as high concentration.

For cities with more than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a seven-day period — a level already reached in Berlin, Frankfurt and several other cities — tighter restrictions should be implemented immediately. However, the plan left quite what measures should be taken open to interpretation, instead listing possibilities. These included stricter rules on wearing masks and social distancing, as well as potentially introducing curfews and restrictions on the sale of alcohol in the hospitality sector, if local authorities deem it wise. Tougher limits on public and private gatherings should also be considered, they agreed.

The deal struck between municipalities and the federal government warned that if local measures did not bring infection numbers within check within 10 days, “more targeted restrictive measures to further reduce public contact will be unavoidable.”  But again, it did not specify what those steps might be.

Merkel said that she was aware that renewed restrictions “will hurt,” particularly for the struggling gastronomy sector. However, she warned that the caseload could accelerate further if authorities were no longer able to keep up with tracking chains of infection.

“As soon as this happens, the virus spreads in an uncontrolled way and uncontrollably,” Merkel said at a Berlin press conference. 

The chancellor pointed to the reintroduction of restrictions in some cities, including Berlin, and praised Munich for having already proved that outbreaks can be brought under control with mask rules and social distancing rules.

“The infection numbers might be rising, but we are anything but powerless,” she said.

Merkel’s comments come after she met 11 mayors from Germany’s major cities on Friday. They agreed local authorities would seek help from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases and the military if case numbers rise to 35 per 100,000 residents within a week.

Germany has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic so far. The country has seen 9,589 COVID-19 deaths and 314,660 infections. The county’s rate of 11.55 deaths per 100,000 people is considerably lower than the United States (64.74), Britain (64.08), and that of many EU nations. 

But German officials warned more needed to be done to stave off the prospect of a second wave. The Robert Koch Institute said there had been 4,516 new cases of COVID-19 reported on Thursday. RKI scientists said several German cities had crept close to the critical warning level of 50 new infections per 100,000 residents. Berlin’s figure is 51, while Cologne’s number stands at 49.8.

Source : DW.COM

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