Germany agrees easing of COVID-19 curbs, more testing and vaccinations

Chancellor Angela Merkel and German state leaders on Wednesday agreed a phased easing of coronavirus curbs but added an "emergency brake" to let authorities reimpose restrictions if case numbers get out of control.

Reuters | Updated: 04-03-2021 06:14 IST | Created: 04-03-2021 06:14 IST
Germany agrees easing of COVID-19 curbs, more testing and vaccinations

Chancellor Angela Merkel and German state leaders on Wednesday agreed a phased easing of coronavirus curbs but added an "emergency brake" to let authorities reimpose restrictions if case numbers get out of control. With elections looming, Merkel and the regional leaders have faced growing pressure to set out plans to restore normal activities after four months of lockdown.

However, daily cases are creeping up again and only around 5% of the population have received a first vaccine shot. "We are at the threshold of a new phase of the pandemic that we can go into not carelessly but still with justified hope," Merkel told reporters after what she described as "tough negotiations" with the regional chiefs.

In Wednesday's agreement, the leaders agreed to extend the interval between first and second vaccinations where possible to offer shots to as many people as they can. They also said they expected a decision soon from Germany's standing committee on vaccination on administering the AstraZeneca shot to over 65s, "in order to be able to adjust the vaccination schedule accordingly".

Germany currently only allows the AstraZeneca vaccine to be given to people aged 18 to 64, which has led to a low take-up of available doses, slowing vaccination efforts. Under Wednesday's five-stage plan, up to five people from two households will be allowed to meet from March 8, with children under 14 exempt. Some shops, including book stores and garden centres, can reopen.

Retailers can reopen provided case numbers are below 50 cases per 100,000 people over seven days in the relevant region. If the incidence rises above 50, 'click and meet' restrictions kick in, whereby customers book a slot to go to the store. If the metric rises above 100 on three consecutive days, the emergency brake will take effect and restrictions revert to those in force before March 8.

Later stages will see restaurant terraces open, and museums, theatres and cinemas reopening for people who can present a recent negative test result. Finally, open air events with up 50 people will be allowed, and contact sport inside. FREE QUICK TESTS

From March 8, the government will pay for all asymptomatic citizens to have a quick coronavirus test at least once a week. Merkel and the state leaders will discuss further steps on March 22. Widely praised last year for relative success in containing the first wave of the coronavirus, Merkel has seen support for her Christian Democrats fall to 34%, its lowest in a year, according to a Forsa opinion poll conducted for RTL/ntv television.

Two regional elections are due this month and a national election in September, when Merkel is due to step down. Health Minister Jens Spahn said the vaccine campaign should be speeded up within days, assuming approval is granted for over-65s to get the AstraZeneca/Oxford shot. Evidence is mounting of its efficacy from Britain, where more than 30% have already received their first shot.

"It was a difficult year for us all, and I understand that after four, five months of lockdown... everybody has high expectations," he told German television. Bavaria's state premier Markus Soeder called for "caution, trust and responsibility."

"We have to be very careful that we don't end up in the next lockdown without thinking," Soeder said. (Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Tracking Fintech during COVID-19: Harnessing power of technology

Its abundantly clear now that as fintech cements its place in the financial sector, accelerated further by the COVID-19 pandemic, it could open the sector to new possibilities by harnessing the power of technology to deliver financial ...

Tectonic turns: How technology shaped healthcare over the decades

Tracing an episodic evolution, with technology at the interface of human and his health....

World Water Day sees crises of inequality in countries both rich and poor

... ...

Privacy and data protection: Reviewing notable policy frameworks

The evolved privacy principles and the resulting legislation across the world primarily aim to force the data collector to define the purpose for which the data is being collected along with the need to obtain explicit consent for the said ...

Videos

Latest News

Golf-Triple-bogey trips up doubting Thomas at Masters

World number two Justin Thomas was the pick of some as the man to beat halfway through the Masters, and a strong start to the third round on Saturday seemed to justify those who favored him.Thomass round came apart spectacularly with a trip...

Trump tells Republican donors he'll help win Congress in 2022

Former President Donald Trump sought to position himself as the Republican Party kingmaker on Saturday, telling party donors he will help them win seats in 2022 congressional elections but shed no new light on whether he will seek a second ...

Mother arrested after 3 children found slain in Los Angeles

The mother of three children, all under the age of five, found slain inside a Los Angeles apartment on Saturday morning has been arrested, police said. Liliana Carrillo, 30, was arrested in Tulare County, about 322 kilometers north of Los A...

Golf-Japan's Matsuyama in control of Masters, leads by four shots

Japans Hideki Matsuyama stormed home in style to put himself in position to become the first Asian golfer to win the Masters as he held a four-shot lead after the rain-interrupted third round at Augusta National on Saturday.Matsuyama, who b...

Give Feedback