BERLIN (AP) – German leaders are set to decide on new restrictions, which may come into effect after Christmas, aimed at slowing the spread of the new omicron variant of COVID-19. But so far plans do not allow for a full lockdown.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the 16 German state governors plan to consult later Tuesday after the news Expert Group called for action to be taken within days and said nationwide action is needed, “especially well-planned and well-communicated contact restrictions.”
Hours before the meeting, the national center for disease control called on Twitter for “maximum contact restrictions” starting immediately until mid-January, and “reducing travel to what is strictly necessary”.
Officials said nightclubs are likely to be closed regardless of local infection rates, which closures currently depend on. There will likely be new crowd restrictions at major events, while new contact restrictions are expected to be introduced for those vaccinated – gatherings would be limited to 10 people.
One state, Hamburg, has already decided on Tuesday to impose such restrictions from Christmas Eve. There will be a 10-person limit for private meetings and dance events will be banned, effectively closing clubs, while restaurants and bars will have to close at 11 p.m. – except on New Years Eve, when they can open until ‘at 1 a.m.
Restrictions already in place primarily target the unvaccinated, with proof of vaccination or recovery required to enter non-essential stores among others. In addition, the sale of New Year’s fireworks has been banned across the country.
Authorities have rushed to speed up a recall campaign, with an average of around one million vaccines administered per day over the past week, the highest level of the pandemic to date. But they remain dissatisfied with the number of people who were vaccinated in the first place – the proportion of the population who received a full first round of vaccines stands at 70.4%, below the minimum of 75% target by the government. . So far, 32.6% have received reminders.
The infection rate in Germany is, for now, slowly falling. On Tuesday, the Center for Disease Control recorded 306.4 new cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days, up from 375 a week earlier, with 23,428 cases reported in the past 24 hours.
However, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has warned that Germany is facing “a massive fifth wave” because of omicron, which he says cannot realistically be avoided. He still said on Sunday that there would be no lockdown before Christmas.
The center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute, said on Monday that people who have recovered or received a first full set of vaccines now face a “high” risk of infection, as it is “moderate” for those who have received a reminder. He said the risk is “very high” for the unvaccinated.
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