Schools and parties in spotlight as Germany weighs new Covid rules | World news

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Angela Merkel is weighing up new restrictions to give Germany’s “soft” lockdown a harder bite, national media reported before a crucial meeting between the chancellor and state premiers.

People could be asked to limit their social interactions in private to only one set second household, and forgo any kind of party until Christmas Eve, according to a draft proposal cited by several news outlets including Der Spiegel.

The plans include vulnerable people in hospitals or elderly care homes being supplied with FFP2 exhalation-valve masks at a reduced price, and other citizens advised to quarantine at home for up to seven days, even if they display only the symptoms of an ordinary cold.

Hygiene requirements at schools could also be tightened, with teachers and students of all year groups asked to wear face masks on the entire campus and throughout lessons.

Germany entered a partial “lockdown light” on 2 November, with contacts reduced to a maximum of two households and no more than 10 people, restaurants and bars closed apart from for takeaway, and unnecessary travel discouraged but not banned. Schools and nurseries have stayed open.

Two weeks on, the rate of new infections has slowed, with the mean doubling time rising on Monday from 25 to 28 days. But the overall number of new cases remains high and the national disease control agency recorded 10,824 confirmed new cases in the last 24 hours.

“The numbers are starting to stabilise,” the German news agency dpa quoted Merkel as telling party colleagues over the weekend. “But too slowly.”

The chancellor is meeting the premiers of Germany’s 16 states on Monday, though a possible tightening of restrictions is expected to be announced in about a week.

Austria, Germany’s Alpine neighbour, is heading into a second full lockdown on Tuesday after recording an average of 7,000 new daily cases last week, one of the highest per-capita rates in the world.

Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, said on Saturday that schools and non-essential shops would remain closed from midnight on Monday.

Exceptions are in place for food stores, pharmacies, banks and post offices. Nurseries and schools for younger pupils will be open only to those requiring childcare.

A night-time curfew will be expanded throughout the day, permitting citizens to leave their homes only for essential trips related to work, shopping or exercise.

“My urgent request: don’t meet anyone!” Kurz tweeted. “Every social contact is one too many.”

Austria has been regarded by many Covid-hit countries as a model after its quick action in handling the pandemic in spring, but has struggled to stem new infections in autumn.

On Saturday, 584 of an available 2,000 intensive care beds were occupied with Covid-19 patients. “Triage is now de facto inescapable,” an intensive care specialist, Klaus Markstaller, told the Kurier newspaper.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Schools and parties in spotlight as Germany weighs new Covid rules | World news

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