Merkel wants to close gyms, restaurants, bars to block virus spread

German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a statement as she arrives for the first face-to-face EU summit since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants state premiers on Wednesday to agree to close all restaurants and bars from Nov. 4 in a bid to curb coronavirus infections but keep nurseries and schools open, a draft resolution seen by NYK Daily showed.

Under the new restrictions, people would only be able to go out in public with members of their own household and one other family, said the resolution. It said people would be punished if they broke the rule but did not give further details.

It said an exponential increase in infections in almost all regions of Germany meant that many local health authorities could not track and trace all diseases, so it was necessary to significantly reduce contact between people now, hoping that extensive restrictions are not required over Christmas.

If Germany’s 16 states’ leaders agree to the draft during a telephone conference later on Wednesday, fitness studios, discos, and cinemas will close along with theatres, opera houses, and concert venues.

Shops would be allowed to remain open if they implement hygiene measures and limit customer numbers, while restaurants would only be allowed to offer takeaways.

Germany, widely praised for keeping its infection rate well below other major powers in the initial phase of the crisis, now faces a faster than expected surge in cases. The latest data from Tuesday showing cases increased by 11,409 to 449,275.

So far, the government has been keen to avoid a second national lockdown after an initial shutdown earlier this year hit economic growth hard.

But Merkel warned on Tuesday that Germany’s health system could hit breaking point if coronavirus infections continue to spiral, and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Germany was likely to reach 20,000 new infections a day by the end of the week.

Altmaier told German broadcaster ARD on Wednesday: “We are in a challenging situation in the pandemic – the infection numbers are exploding and that is threatening the capacity of the health system and therefore human lives, so politicians have to act.”

The draft said the federal government wanted to provide financial aid to firms affected by closures, adding that a concept would be presented on Wednesday.

It said only “necessary and specifically non-tourist” stays overnight would be allowed, and swimming pools, brothels, cosmetic studios, massage parlors, and tattoo studios would all have to close their doors. Still, physiotherapy services and hairdressers would be able to stay open.

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