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Coronavirus: German states plan December offensive

  • November 23, 2020

Spurred on by Chancellor Angela Merkel to come up with a “cohesive, collective answer” on how Germany should try to get the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in check, state premiers are working on new proposals for the period from December 1. 

After being rebuffed last week in her bid to intensify some aspects of Germany’s lockdown, Merkel has put the onus back on regional leaders to come up with a concept on which they can all agree. They are set to present their finalized proposal to the chancellor on Wednesday. 

Judging by the early information, the states are planning to tighten the screws in general — a response to Friday’s record daily tally of 23,648 new cases. However, regional leaders are also dangling a few carrots alongside their lockdown stick: regions with lower caseloads should be able to ease restrictions by themselves, and moratoriums are being considered for Christmas and possibly New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

Here are some of the highlights from a draft proposal that was circulating on Monday.

Extending the partial lockdown

In the broadest strokes, the restrictions imposed this November are set for an extension for at least three weeks, until December 20. 

Hotels, restaurants, and gyms will remain closed. People should stay at home as much as possible, avoiding unnecessary travel and contact. 

Masks and meetings

  • Private gatherings will be limited to members of two households and up to five people
  • Children under 14 years of age will not be counted among the five
  • Masks to remain mandatory in publicly-accessible buildings, shops, and public transport
  • Possible requirement to wear masks outdoors in areas where large numbers often congregate

Christmas exemptions

To apply from December 21 to at least December 27

  • Meetings involving people from more than two households to be permitted
  • Maximum of five may be increased to 10 people (under-14’s still exempt)
  • Afterwards, people will be encouraged to voluntarily self-isolate for several days
  • Churches may be permitted to conduct festive ceremonies — aiming to avoid typical, larger services

New Year’s celebrations

  • Letting off fireworks in streets to be discouraged or perhaps banned
  • Sale, purchase and release of fireworks might even be banned outright


  • Masks should also be required in classes (currently they are required only when moving around the school, not at desks) from year 7 upwards in areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents
  • However, schools that can demonstrate no infections can be exempt
  • The decision on implementing home-schooling to rest with individual states
  • When a case is registered in a class, students and teacher should go into 5-day quarantine and then undergo rapid tests, provided by the government

Read more: German schools develop ‘Plan B’ for corona times

Economic stimulus

  • Existing programs to support businesses, the self-employed, and clubs or societies should be extended
  • States will encourage the federal government to consider extending its bridging loans for businesses in particular difficulties with no sign of reprieve — like the cultural, travel, and event sectors — until mid-2021
  • Examining whether statutory health funds need additional assistance, amid lower earnings for many members, is also recommended

“We must extend the lockdown,” Bavarian state premier Markus Söder wrote on Twitter. “Sadly the numbers are still too high. If we stop the treatment too early, we risk a severe deterioration. Then everything starts again from scratch. Better a longer lockdown now than a total one at Christmas.”

New, flexible focus on caseload

However, states with lower caseloads will probably be allowed to choose to lift their restrictions even if the country as a whole could not. 

Read more: WHO says Europe failed to learn from Asia

“States that are not risk areas, if they are visibly able to get below 50 cases [per 100,000 residents per week] in a stable and sustained way, must then have the opportunity to ease restrictions,” Manuela Schwesig, the Social Democrat state premier of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday. 

Schwesig said that her own state’s rate, currently hovering around 46 cases per 100,000 for the previous week, would not yet qualify in her mind to ease restrictions as it was so close to the threshold. She said a number nearer 35 might be appropriate. 

Even the state premier of Saxony-Anhalt, Rainer Haseloff, who has been particularly critical of lockdown restrictions, said on Monday everybody recognized “the fundamental requirement” of extending the restrictions. 

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