LATEST: Berlin refuses to go back into hard shutdown despite high infection rate

Michael Müller, mayor of the German capital, said on Thursday it wasn’t a “viable path” to return to a hard lockdown despite his state exceeding the infection level that requires the so-called emergency brake to be applied.

LATEST: Berlin refuses to go back into hard shutdown despite high infection rate
Berlin mayor Michael Müller. credit: dpa | Christoph Soeder

“I believe that it is not a viable path to now turn back everything that we have fought for in terms of opportunities and freedoms in recent days and weeks,” Müller said.

The Social Democrat (SPD) politician said that infections in the capital would be fought through an upscaled testing regime and through more vaccinations.

At Monday’s lockdown summit all 16 federal states agreed to “consequently” apply the so-called emergency brake by returning to previous lockdown measures if the state’s 7-day incidence exceeds 100 on three consecutive days.

At the beginning of March, all states began to loosen restrictions as part of a “five-step plan”, which initially saw businesses such as hair salons, hardware stores and flower shops reopen their doors.

READ MORE: This is Germany’s five-step plan to head out of shutdown

On Thursday Berlin recorded a 7-day incidence above 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the third day in a row.

The German capital had a 7-day incidence of 125 per 100,000 inhabitants on Friday and recorded a further 1,000 cases over the past 24 hours.

Berlin uses a traffic light system that tracks the reproductions value, 7-day incidence and hospital occupancy. On Friday only the 7-day incidence was coloured red. The R-value was green and hospital occupancy was amber.

Müller said that his state would instead think about a new vaccination strategy.

“Perhaps we need to talk about whether we should be vaccinating particularly mobile people like students and trainees next and about how we can vaccinate people more quickly,” he said.

Health Minister Jens Spahn of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) implicitly criticized Berlin for not activating the emergency brake at his weekly press conference on Friday.

“I encourage every state to implement the agreement made on Monday,” he said, describing the emergency brake as “necessary.”

“If we don’t make massive efforts to tackle this threat the consequences will be enormous,” Spahn warned, saying that the health system could be brought to its limit in April.

Saarland defends opening strategy

Doctors have also criticized the small rural state of Saarland after it announced on Thursday that it would lift restrictions on outdoor dining, cinemas and gyms after Easter.

Saarland says that its opening strategy will be supported by a comprehensive testing regime.

State premier Tobias Hans (CDU) said that the strategy will lead to more cases being discovered, as people will have the incentive to take a test if they want to buy an ice cream or go to the cinema. More infected people would this be identified and quarantined.

READ ALSO: First German state set to end coronavirus shutdown from April 6th

But the plan has been criticized by the Marburg Bund doctors association.

“These types of pilot programmes cannot be an alternative to lockdown in the current situation,” said the association’s head, Susanne Johna.

“The third wave is already in full swing. I see it critically when an entire federal state like Saarland wants to carry out a pilot project.”

Rising case numbers

Health offices in Germany reported 21,573 new infections on Friday, up from 17,428 a week ago. In addition, 183 new deaths were recorded within 24 hours.

The national 7-day incidence per 100,000 inhabitants rose to 119.1 on Friday morning, from 113.3 on the previous day.

The highest number of new infections registered within 24 hours, 33,777, was recorded on December 18th.

The RKI has counted 2,734,753 proven infections with Sars-CoV-2 in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic. The actual total is likely much higher, as many infections are never detected.

READ ALSO: One year on: The charts and maps that explain the state of the pandemic in Germany

Member comments

  1. This Strategy is seriously baffling with experts warning very loudly about the potential exponential rise of cases in the coming days and weeks. I honestly believe that Merkel has been very badly let down by the states with every state deciding for its own and the results are there for everyone to see. When Merkel’s ideas were listened and adhered to, Germany managed the pandemic so well with the first wave and the moment states got the control back, it has been haywire. I am surprised that after 80 days of the vaccination campaign the thought occurs that people who are more mobile should be vaccinated first. This should have been a key element of the vaccination strategy from the very beginning.

  2. 5 months of consistent lockdown have proven this is an abject failure of strategy. I applaud the mayor for actually looking at other strategies, and agree with Venkatraman that expanded vaccine inclusion should have been part of the strategy from the outset to vaccinate those who are out infecting others. Germany (and the EU) have failed in innovating responses to the crisis, and the result is people who are tired of never-ending lockdown. Merkel has proven she has one tool and as they say when all you have is a hammer, every problem is a nail.
    Saving a few billion in vaccine costs at the expense of a 4 trillion dollar economy and peoples well-being is demonstratable lack of leadership.

  3. What an idiot – yeah, let’s innoculate Students first, then they can go running around with their heads up their arses, instead of sticking to the rules. I need to get back to work, & until the WORKING population gets vaccinated, I won’t be able to.

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End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden’s Covid laws really means

With the expiry of Sweden's two temporary Covid-19 laws, the downgrading of the virus's threat classification, and the end of the last travel restrictions, April, officially at least, marks the end of the pandemic. We explain what it means.

End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden's Covid laws really means

What are the two laws which expire on April 1st? 

Sweden’s parliament voted last week to let the two temporary laws put in place to battle the Covid-19 pandemic expire on April 1st.

The first law is the so-called Covid-19 law, or “the law on special restrictions to limit the spread of the Covid-19 illness”, which was used during the pandemic to temporarily empower the authorities to limit the number of visitors to shops, gyms, and sports facilities. It also gave the government power to limit the number of people who could gather in public places like parks and beaches. 

The second law was the “law on temporary restrictions at serving places”. This gave the authorities, among other things, the power to limit opening times, and force bars and restaurants to only serve seated customers.  

What impact will their expiry have? 

The immediate impact on life in Sweden will be close to zero, as the restrictions imposed on the back of these two laws were lifted months ago. But it does means that if the government does end up wanting to bring back these infection control measures, it will have to pass new versions of the laws before doing so. 

How is the classification of Covid-19 changing? 

The government decided at the start of February that it would stop classifying Covid-19 both as a “critical threat to society” and “a disease that’s dangerous to the public” on April 1st.

These classifications empowered the government under the infectious diseases law that existed in Sweden before the pandemic to impose health checks on inbound passengers, place people in quarantine, and ban people from entering certain areas, among other measures. 

What impact will this change have? 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a disease that’s dangerous to the public”, or an allmänfarlig sjukdom, people who suspect they have caught the virus, are no longer expected to visit a doctor or get tested, and they cannot be ordered to get tested by a court on the recommendation of an infectious diseases doctor. People with the virus can also no longer be required to aid with contact tracing or to go into quarantine. 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a critical threat to society”, or samhällsfarlig, the government can no longer order health checks at border posts, quarantine, or ban people from certain areas. 

The end of Sweden’s last remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions

Sweden’s last remaining travel restriction, the entry ban for non-EU arrivals, expired on March 31st.  This means that from April 1st, Sweden’s travel rules return to how they were before the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

No one will be required to show a vaccination or test certificate to enter the country, and no one will be barred from entering the country because their home country or departure country is not deemed to have a sufficiently good vaccination program or infection control measures. 

Does that mean the pandemic is over? 

Not as such. Infection rates are actually rising across Europe on the back of yet another version of the omicron variant. 

“There is still a pandemic going on and we all need to make sure that we live with it in a balanced way,” the Public Health Agency’s director-general, Karin Tegmark Wisell, told SVT

Her colleague Sara Byfors told TT that this included following the “fundamental recommendation to stay home if you are sick, so you don’t spread Covid-19 or any other diseases”.