Despite the continuing decline in the number of cases and hospital admissions, the launch of the Omicron variant of the new corona virus is pushing the German government to impose new restrictions, a “lockdown light”, writes Südwest Presse, both in public and in the private field.
The measures are expected to be specified during Chancellor Olaf Soltz’s conference later today with the state prime ministers.
At the same time, the Robert Koch Institute sounded the alarm, raising the risk level for the population to “very high” – especially for the unvaccinated.
Today the decisions
According to the draft decision that will be taken today by the federation and the states and at the disposal of the RND network, from December 28, up to 10 people will be able to meet privately – either indoors or outdoors – vaccinated or not. Children under the age of 14 are not counted.
The big open-air New Year’s parties are expected to be canceled, with the Berlin government already announcing this decision for the events traditionally held at the Brandenburg Gate. Also, the big nightclubs will remain closed, while sports and cultural venues will operate with a very limited number of spectators, at 30-50% of the capacity, and only for vaccinated or sick people and the use of a mask, while the organizers will be able to request negative diagnostic test.
Bundesliga football matches and other similar sports matches will be played again without fans. It is rather characteristic that in a previous draft decision there was talk only of limiting the number of spectators, not of excluding them.
The state’s financial support to businesses affected by the measures will be extended to meet new needs. The states will be able to adapt the aid according to the particular needs of their region.
In addition, as the Bild newspaper revealed yesterday, the chancellery has already given instructions to the Ministry of Defense and the federal and state ministries of Interior, Economy and Health, to prepare emergency operation plans, in case, due to the dispersal of Omicron, a large number employees quarantined.
“Very high” risk due to Omicron
The Robert Koch Institute, referring to the Omicron variant, last night raised the level of risk for the general population to “very high”, especially for those who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. Respectively, the risk is considered “high” for those who have received two vaccines or have become ill, while it is characterized as “moderate” for those who have received a booster dose. The Institute also warns of a large increase in the number of cases and a rapid overload of the health system. He clarifies that his announcements will need to be updated, if new information emerges.
Health Minister Carl Lauterbach reiterated yesterday that a general lockdown before Christmas was ruled out, but left open the possibility of imposing wider restrictions on the unvaccinated from January, excluding the closure of schools and restaurants. Decisions will depend on how the situation develops in the coming weeks.
On the other hand, the representative of the Greens for health issues, Janos Damen, told Handelsblatt that the tools available to the states are not enough to deal with Omicron and suggested the suspension of restaurants and clubs. In addition, he stressed that “a possible scenario would be a well-planned lockdown in early January.”
From the third government partner, the Liberals (FDP), the leader of the Parliamentary Group Christian Dour told ZDF that “we should see reasonable contact restrictions, if necessary, but at this stage no lockdown is necessary.”
On the contrary, the new General Secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Lars Klingbail clarified that for January “there are no red lines”, if the new variant continues to spread and the measures prove to be insufficient.