Common strategy to fight the pandemic

Telephone conference of federal and state governments Common strategy to fight the pandemic

Chancellor Angela Merkel has consulted with the premiers of the sixteen federal states about the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal and state governments have agreed to lift further restrictions: church services are to be permitted, and playgrounds are to reopen. But, said the Chancellor, we must still be cautious.

The photo shows Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Federal Chancellery.

Chancellor Angela Merkel after Thursday's telephone conference

Photo: Bundesregierung/Denzel

Germany is a federal country, and there will always be regional differences, stressed the Chancellor on Thursday following her telephone conference with the state premiers. It is nevertheless in the interests of the people that Germany has one strategy and one goal. Since we have neither a vaccine nor a treatment for the novel coronavirus, it is still a question of slowing the spread so that the health system and hospitals are not overwhelmed and so that every patient can receive the best possible medical care, stressed the Chancellor.

Looking at the big picture and remaining cautious

The Chancellor expressly thanked all those who are considering how public life can be started up, and are developing careful and circumspect strategies to this end.

Once these strategies have been devised it is then the responsibility of politicians to decide when to act. "And these are difficult decisions, there are difficult considerations to weigh up," underscored Angela Merkel. In every instance it is important to take a careful look at the big picture and ensure that we do everything to prevent any relapse and return to a more difficult phase. It is important to ensure that we move forward step by step.

Some restrictions to be eased

The consultations on Thursday were an interim step, said Angela Merkel. On 6 May further steps will be discussed, once we have a clear idea for instance of the impact of opening shops. "And that is why we have taken individual decisions today, but in the coming week we will again put together a further-reaching package," announced the Chancellor.

On Thursday, reported Angela Merkel, it was re-affirmed that large-scale events cannot be permitted before 31 August. This applies to large sporting events, public festivals and fairs with audiences, larger concerts, music festivals, village, town and street parties, fun fairs and traditional Schützenfeste (annual festivals held by local shooting clubs).

The federal and state governments decided to ease of modify restrictions in the following areas: 

  • In line with regulations which the churches and religious communities have worked out together, church services and public prayers are to be permitted again.
  • Playgrounds are to be reopened subject to some specific conditions. 
  • Cultural facilities including museums, exhibitions, galleries, monuments, zoos and botanic gardens are also to be allowed to open subject to certain conditions.
  • A larger percentage of hospital capacities is to be released again for scheduled surgery. Most non-urgent surgery has been postponed over the last few weeks. Currently about 40 per cent of intensive care unit beds are reserved, and hospitals are receiving financial compensation for leaving them empty for COVID-19 patients. This step is possible in view of the current trends in case numbers and thanks to the precise overview provided by the register of intensive care beds, states the resolution.

The individual federal states are now responsible for implementing the easing of restrictions.

The next conference on 6 May will assess the strategy submitted by the ministers of cultural affairs, youth and sport, and clear decisions will be taken regarding how and in what sequence schools, nurseries and possibly certain sporting activities can resume operations, stressed the Chancellor.

In other branches too, prospects must be offered, said Angela Merkel. The responsible standing conferences of ministers have been mandated to prepare, before the conference on 6 May, prospects and frameworks for the gradual opening of catering and hospitality, and tourism services, as well as additional cultural facilities. "This always presupposes, of course, that the course of the infection permits these steps," underlined the Chancellor. The general contact restrictions are to remain in place. The individual federal states will regulate the details. 

Caution is the cardinal rule

The Chancellor pointed to the employment figures published on Thursday, and to the drastic economic repercussions of the pandemic. "We have not lost sight of these things, but I am absolutely convinced that it is also in the interests of the economy, and in the interests of social contacts, if we are careful to ensure that we are able to move forward, take steps that we will not subsequently have to retrace. And that is why caution is the cardinal rule – along with hygiene measures."

Read the resolution adopted on 30 April here.