Germany imposes strict Christmas closure
Only supermarkets and pharmacies will be open between December 16th and January 10th
BerlinSince the beginning of November, Germany has lived in a "soft lockdown" that for many people was too soft. In a virtual meeting encapsulated in the agenda of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 regional presidents this Sunday morning, Merkel managed to reach a consensus on a "hard" lockdown as of this Wednesday, December 16th.
"We have lost control of the situation", Markus Söder, President of the Bavarian region, explained at the press conference after the exceptionally short meeting. "We know that hard measures affect Christmas holidays, but we are forced to do this" Merkel added, in the spirit of what was the most emotional speech of her 15 years as Chancellor, last week before the German parliament, the Bundestag.
Merkel has not been so popular since April 2015: 74% of Germans are happy or very happy with her. She will leave being successful, both for her management of the coronavirus crisis and for her German presidency of the European Union (EU), in the framework of which Merkel achieved a triple success last week: European covid package, budget agreement, and climate targets.
Last week many schools already contacted families rushing them to activate student accounts on virtual platforms. The harsh lockdown had already been on everyone's minds for days. Finally, from Wednesday onwards, online classes will be the new routine until the start of the Christmas holidays and, for now, also during the first week of January. Merkel and the regional presidents will meet again on January 5th to assess how to proceed from January 11th onwards.
All shops, except for the essential ones - such as supermarkets and pharmacies -, will be closed from Wednesday onwards; hairdressers and beauty salons will also be closed. Bars, restaurants and all cultural venues will continue to be closed, although pick-up and drop-off food service is permitted. The German government's subsidies aim to finance businesses and freelancers' economic losses at least until the end of December. Churches and places of worship will remain open, as they have been until now, with restrictions.
Large gatherings are forbidden and the maximum number of people from two households that can meet is kept at five, not counting children under 14. Christmas days (24-26) are an exception, since up to five people from more than two households can meet. There will be no firecrackers at the end of the year, nor will it be possible to consume alcohol in the open air between 16 December and 10 January, an alternative to the bars that since the beginning of November, and despite the cold, had become widespread, especially in alternative neighbourhoods. It is also recommended not to travel, either in or out of Germany, but it is not forbidden.
Exponential leap in numbers
The numbers of coronavirus infections announced daily by the Robert Koch Institute have made an exponential leap since fall: during the first lockdown the average was of 2,000 cases per day; now there are about 20,000. What has most shaken public opinion is the death toll, which has doubled from October to 20,000. Germanyy has also increased the number of tests: between mid-September and the end of October there were 37% more. There are also more cases in old people's homes. According to the RKI, there are about 5,000 intensive care units left throughout the country. The health system is not overwhelmed.
Germans are placing a lot of hope in the vaccine, although the official reference virologist, Christian Drosten, has already warned this weekend that public perception "is distorted, partly because of the successes and good press of politicians" and that mass vaccination "will not be a reality" soon. These days the airline Lufthansa announced that there has already been a boom in bookings for Easter and, above all, for summer 2021, as a result of the pro-vaccine campaign.
The movement against the anti-corona measures, the so-called "Querdenker", keeps protesting in the streets, although with more and more obstacles. In some regions they are under observation for being potentially unconstitutional and this weekend a mass demonstration in the city of Dresden was banned. It is estimated that 13% of the population is close to this movement, especially between voters of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD).