Berlin (dpa) – The strict restrictions on personal contacts in the fight against the corona pandemic are to be relaxed over Christmas. The Prime Minister agreed on this with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), as the dpa learned from participants from various federal states.
A confirmation from the federal government and the resolution of the entire paper were still pending after around four hours of deliberation.
Even before the federal-state talks, it had become apparent that people in Germany would initially have to prepare for a continuation and even tightening of the partial lockdown in December. The aim is to get the infection process under control so that it doesn’t get out of hand when families meet over the Christmas period.
According to the information from regional circles on Wednesday, meetings “with close family or friends” should be possible from December 23, up to a maximum of ten people in total. Children up to 14 years of age should be exempt from this. According to the information, the exemption should now apply “at the longest” until January 1st. If this wording is retained, it would initially be unclear whether the easing will ultimately apply everywhere over New Year’s Eve.
In any case, there should be fewer New Year’s fireworks: the federal and state governments want to recommend that citizens refrain from fireworks at the turn of the year. The use of pyrotechnics in busy squares and streets should be prohibited in order to avoid larger groups being formed, as the dpa learned from participants. The local authorities should therefore determine the places and streets affected.
Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) had spoken out in favor of strict contact restrictions on New Year’s Eve before the meeting – unlike most countries striving for. “Because Christmas is the festival of the family, New Year’s Eve is of course more the festival of friends,” he said on Wednesday in the ARD “Morgenmagazin”. He would rather be more consistent over the turn of the year than over Christmas.
Merkel wants to speak in the Bundestag on the corona crisis this Thursday. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the number of reported corona deaths within 24 hours rose to a high of 410 on Wednesday morning. The number of new corona infections reported within 24 hours was 18,633.
The partial lockdown was “about half as strong as we expected,” said the SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach in the ARD “morning magazine”. The reason are sources of infection in schools, for example. These were also a topic of the deliberations – there were suggestions for the beginning of the Christmas holidays and for the expansion of the mask requirement.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) had again advertised in the morning to leave the schools open – which also emerged as a line. “The kitchen table at home in a two- or three-room apartment is not a better place to learn. The best place to learn is the school, “said Laschet in the state parliament in Düsseldorf. The federal-state consultations are not about opening steps, the risk of relapse is too great.
Restaurants, leisure and cultural facilities have been largely closed since the beginning of November. The so-called November aid for companies, institutions and people affected by the partial lockdown is to be continued in December. The federal government is planning financial aid expected to be worth 17 billion euros, as the dpa learned from government circles.
It was initially unclear whether restaurants and hotels would be allowed to reopen over the holidays and the turn of the year. According to various participants, the federal and state governments agreed to keep wholesalers and retailers open – but to impose stricter requirements for larger businesses.
Accordingly, in future it should apply that in small and medium-sized shops with a sales area of up to 800 square meters there should be no more than one person per 10 square meters of sales area. In larger shops with a total sales area of 801 square meters or more, such as department stores, the following is planned: Up to an area of 800 square meters, there should be no more than one person per 10 square meters – on the area exceeding 800 square meters, no more than one person per 20 square meters.
In addition, the mask requirement is to be expanded in wholesale and retail. In future, it should also apply in front of retail stores and in parking lots. The population is also called upon to do their Christmas shopping during the week if possible.