"We are forced to take action"
The goal is still to push numbers below an incidence of 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a seven-day period, at which point contact tracing will be possible again. "That is why we are now forced to take action – and we are taking action," stressed Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, following consultations with federal and state governments. Further measures must now be taken to restrict contacts in order to significantly lower the number of new infections. The federal and state governments have published a new .
Chancellor Angela Merkel thanked everybody in Germany for the fact that so many people have respected the rules and thus helped contain the pandemic. The Chancellor urgently appealed to everyone "to avoid all contacts that are not absolutely essential over the coming days, and thus help ensure that our health system is not overwhelmed". The Chancellor addressed her special thanks to those working in the health system. For them, she said, this will be a very difficult Christmas, and that is why "our decisions are urgently needed, to support them in particular and to give people the assurance that the health system will be there for them when they need it".
There is an urgent need for action
These are the main points decided by the Chancellor and the state premiers:
- The decisions currently in place will remain in place until 10 January 2021.
- Private meetings with friends and family will continue to be limited to a maximum of 5 individuals from a total of two households. Children up to the age of 14 are not counted as part of this figure.
- Over Christmas the following will apply: Depending on the case numbers in each federal state, the states can make an exception to the contact restrictions in place from 24 December to 26 December 2020 and permit households to meet up with a maximum of 4 close family members from outside their immediate household plus children up to the age of 14, even if this means a total of more than two households or 5 people over the age of 14.
- A nationwide ban on all gatherings will be in force on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Fireworks will also be banned in areas frequented by many people. The sale of fireworks before New Year will be banned this year, and there is a general recommendation not to let off any fireworks, partly because of the high risk of injury and the fact that the health system is already seriously stretched.
- Shops are to close from 16 December 2020 to 10 January 2021, with the exception of food shops and shops selling essential goods.
- Service businesses including hairdressers will close, because physical distance cannot be avoided. Necessary medical treatment, including physiotherapy, will continue to be possible.
- At schools too, contracts are to be drastically reduced between 16 December 2020 and 10 January 2021. During this period children should be kept at home if at all possible. For this reason, schools will all close over this period, or will suspend in person classes. Emergency care services will be provided, and remote learning offered. Nurseries will proceed similarly. Parents will be given additional options to take paid leave to look after their children.
- Employers are urgently requested to explore the possibility of either closing companies completely for annual company holidays or offering generous opportunities to work from home from 16 December 2020 to 10 January 2021.
- The hospitality industry may continue to deliver food or sell food to take away and eat at home. Food may not be eaten on the premises. There will be a ban on the consumption of alcoholic beverages in public from 16 December to 10 January. Fines will be imposed for contraventions.
- Church services and religious gatherings in synagogues and mosques are only possible under specific preconditions. The Federal Ministry of the Interior will engage with the religious communities.
- Special protective measures must be taken in care homes and nursing homes and by mobile nursing and care services. Regular testing is mandatory for staff.
- The federal and state governments urgently appeal to all citizens to avoid all non-essential travel inside and outside Germany between now and 10 January.
- Sectors of the economy that are particularly hard hit by the restrictions will continue to receive financial support.