We'll have to meet again in two weeks, folks.
Photo: 
Florian Gaertner/photothek.net via www.imago-images.de

BerlinUnder new rules agreed on Wednesday, German regions showing a sharp rise in corona infections must impose a 10-person or two household limit on private celebrations. 

The dpa press agency reported that the new nationwide regulation was hammered out by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the 16 state premiers during a meeting in Berlin on Wednesday. The rule applies to regions with an incidence rate of at least 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 7 days.

However, Merkel was not happy with the compromise.

"Our measures aren't hard enough to avert disaster," she said during the meeting on Wednesday evening, according to people who were in the room. Merkel predicted that the measures – in her view inadequate – would require the federal and state governments to meet again in a fortnight.

Warning of the next lockdown

"What we're doing here is simply not enough. It feels like every state is looking for a little loophole. That worries me. And the list of health departments that can't cope is getting longer and longer."

Besides rules on private gatherings, the new measures stipulate that restaurants, bars and other nightlife venues in hotspot areas will have to close at 11pm. Berlin already introduced these mandatory closing hours last week. The city's current regulations are valid until 31 October.

The national deal also has tougher rules on masks: once a region surpasses a threshold of 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a week, they must be worn "everywhere wear people gather for a longer period of time."

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) also expressed his concerns about rising infections: "If we don't act decisively, the next lockdown is inevitable. Germany is surrounded by high-risk countries. The potential risk is enormous."

And prohibitions on inner-Germany travel?

The politicians weren't able to reach an agreement on the patchwork accomodation limits around the country that keep people from risk areas from spending the night in vacation accomodations in other areas. Meck-Pomm, Schleswig-Holstein, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt and Hamburg are reportedly happy with the current regulations whereas Saxony and Saarland want to rescind them.

Bavaria is uncertain which direction to go. Since the federal government and the local states were unable to reach a decision, they will revisit the subject at the next planned meeting 8 November. The effectiveness of the rules will then also be known. 

Chancellor Merkel's cabinet will also reportedly address the issue during ameeting Thurssday. 

The chancellor and the state premiers met in person for the first time since June rather than meeting via video conference. The meeting was prompted by a sharp rise of infections in Germany and even more dramatic developments in many neighbouring countries. According to the Robert Koch Institute, 5,132 new infections were reported in Germany on Wednesday – more than at any time since mid-April.