Coronavirus: Germany to decide on possible lockdown this weekend
Friday, 20 March 2020
Germany’s authorities will decide this weekend whether the entire country will go into lockdown to fight against the new coronavirus (Covid-19), as its European neighbours have done, the head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office said on Friday.
“We are observing the population’s behaviour this weekend” before taking “new restrictive measures,” Der Spiegel newspaper quotes Helge Braun as saying.
A lockdown, as observed in neighbouring countries would be “extremely heavy” and “we wish to avoid it,” Braun added, calling on the population to “avoid social contacts outside the family as much as possible.” Saturday, a traditional day for markets and family outings, will be “a decisive day that we shall observe particularly,” he said.
Germany has already taken drastic measures, closing schools, nurseries and public places considered to be non-essential, and has also banned gatherings. However, thus far, the German authorities have not decreed nationwide confinement measures like Italy, Spain or France.
During a televised speech on Wednesday, Chancellor Merkel called on Germans to stay at home to fight the epidemic, whose tally in Germany has jumped to almost 14,000 cases, an increase of close to 3,000 in 24 hours, while 31 people have died, according to the Robert Koch health monitoring service. However, many Germans, especially young people, have been taking liberties with such recommendations.
Merkel and the heads of Germany’s regional states are scheduled to meet on Sunday to decide whether or not to toughen the restrictions already in place. “If people do not do it on their own, we could take such a decision,” said Armin Laschet, Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia, one of the states worst affected by the virus.
Some areas have already taken measures to that effect in recent days in a country where federalism plays a very big role in decision-making.
Bavaria, a state hit particularly hard by the virus, on Monday decreed a “situation of catastrophe” and its Minister-President, Markus Söder, was scheduled to address the issue once again on Friday.
Freiburg, just across the border from Eastern France, a region also hard hit by the virus announced a total lockdown of its population from Saturday.