In a further attempt to contain the rising COVID-19 cases, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has extended the social contact protocols to December 20 this year. So far, the only general method deployed to control the SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is social distancing, as it appears to keep spreading from person to person.
Restaurants and pubs, along with cinemas, trade fairs, theaters, and fitness centers, will remain closed. Schools and nurseries are exempted. Shops are allowed to operate with strict limits on numbers and social distancing of customers. People are advised to wear face masks in public places.
The German government plans to increase measures for the particularly vulnerable people such as the elderly, the sick, or those with pre-existing conditions. Germany has one of the highest percentages (about 30 percent) of people vulnerable to COVID-19. The country has more than 24 million senior citizens and 2.5 million younger people with serious disabilities.
With a population of about 900,000 people in nursing homes, strict measures are being taken in these facilities. The government ensures up to 20 free monthly tests per resident. Tests are regularly conducted for patients, staff, and visitors. Visitors who might be carriers of COVID-19 are reported to pose a potentially devastating threat in nursing homes.
The COVID-19 pandemic was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in January 2020, and a pandemic in March 2020. Since then, more than 72.3 million cases have been confirmed, with more than 1.62 million deaths attributed worldwide to the pandemic.
According to the current statistics, Germany has a death toll of over 22,000 and an infection rate of over 1.35 million.
The German government is still highlighting the importance of face masks and is still advising their usage. They are said to protect the wearer’s nose and mouth from contact with droplets, splashes, and sprays that may contain the virus. Face masks combined with other measures, such as frequent hand-washing, sanitizing, and social distancing, may help to slow down the spread of the virus.
With all these restrictions in place, the government hopes to flatten the curve of infections as soon as possible.
The current partial lockdowns were imposed on November 2 when the country recorded its highest rise in COVID-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic. During mid-October, the country’s infection rate went over the threshold of 50 per 100,000 people in one week, which is alarmingly high.
The lockdowns also prompted citizen unrest in Germany, where thousands of people staged a protest in Berlin demanding easing of restrictions and for financial support from the government. Demonstrators are claiming that the restrictions imposed by the government are a threat to civil rights. The lockdowns, face masking, social distancing, restrictions on travel, school, shopping… have already been tried over a long period of time and they are not working.
The restrictions on social contacts, the shutting down shops along with compulsory laws on wearing face masks and liquor restrictions by the government are without the consent of the Parliament. The conservative party, Alternative for Germany (AfD) compared this move to Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship.
Due to the spike in cases, European stock markets closed at their lowest levels since late May. To curb this economic downturn, Germany announced a €10 billion (US$12 billion) fund to partly reimburse companies for lost revenue.
Earlier in October, a citizen-centered study was conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) analyszing 19 countries. Germany was, then, the best-ranked European country in the “COVID response” category. This was due to aggressive testing, contact tracing, and quarantine controls. Events have taken a sharp turn into the second wave, which started in mid-October. Case numbers are reported to have flared up again.