‘Now is not the time for easing Covid-19 restrictions’, warns Bavarian premier

'Now is not the time for easing Covid-19 restrictions', warns Bavarian premier
Bavarian state leader Markus Söder on Monday. Photo: DPA
Germany's coronavirus infection rate is continuing to decline. But high-profile politician Markus Söder has warned against reopening public life too early.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is to meet with the leaders of Germany's 16 states next week – most likely on February 10th – to discuss what happens next in the country's shutdown.

The current measures, which were tightened last month, are due to expire on February 14th.

But Bavarian state premier Markus Söder, who is a possible future chancellor candidate after Merkel steps down, warned against opening up public life again quickly – and against states going their own way with different regulations.

Mistakes must be avoided, he said, adding: “Many lives are still at stake.”

On Monday 5,608 new Covid-19 infections in 24 hours were reported to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Germany.

That is 1,121 fewer reports than a week ago, when there were 6,729 cases. There were 175 new deaths related to the virus during this time period.

The total number of people who have died from or with the virus has now risen to 57,120.

Since not all health offices transmit data at the weekend, the RKI's figures are usually lower on Monday than on other days – plus no figures were transmitted from Saxony-Anhalt.

The nationwide seven-day incidence is currently 91 Covid-19 infections per 100,000 inhabitants. The aim is to get this number down to under 50.

READ ALSO: Analysis – At what point could Germany begin easing Covid restrictions?

'Wait to ease restrictions until time is right'

The current developments will be examined at the next conference between Merkel and state leaders, Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Söder told party members in Munich.

However, Söder added: “Anyone who expects that after that the big openings can take place across the board – that is not responsible from my point of view at the moment.”

Söder urged patience – particularly because the British viral mutation is being increasingly detected in Germany.

“And if there is a hasty easing now, then we are actually threatened with a serious setback,” he warned. If you open at a seven-day incidence of 90, you will be back at 150 in no time, he said.

“Now is not the time to talk about big relaxations – but rather to be thorough, longer, consistent,” he said.

“Things will really be opened up more widely and broadly when the time is right. And the time is ripe for it when the incidence rates are correspondingly low,” said Söder.

READ ALSO: Is this Germany's roadmap to head out of Covid-19 lockdown?

Söder also said although the aim is to get down to 50 new infections per 100,000 residents in seven days, it doesn't mean that everything will open up at that point.

He said last year Bavaria only relaxed its measures considerably when the incidence was below 10.

Söder also called for rules that are as uniform as possible throughout Germany. “There needs to be equal, fair and understandable rules for everyone,” he said.

There shouldn't be an “endless patchwork quilt” across Germany.

And when relaxing restrictions, schools and daycare centres (Kitas) would have priority – with high precautionary measures such as tests.

Söder also weighed in on the vaccination debate, calling for Germany to produce as much vaccines as possible.

READ ALSO: How can Germany speed up its vaccination campaign?

The pandemic is an extraordinary emergency situation, he said, and no one should forget that vaccinations are extremely important for the economy as well as for health reasons.

“Vaccination saves lives, vaccination creates freedom, and vaccination strengthens the economic restart. And that is why all capacities must be used,” Söder said.

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