Angela Merkel faced shouts and harassment GermanyParliament this morning as she outlined her government’s plans to close a second “soft,” he writes Philip Ulterman, Head of the Guardian’s office in Berlin.
From Monday, bars, restaurants, theaters, swimming pools and fitness studios will be closed for a month, and public gatherings will be limited to two families or up to ten people. Non-essential travel is not recommended and hotels are advised against hosting tourists. However, schools, nurseries and shops will remain open.
On Thursday morning, Merkel said Germany was in a “tragic situation” as it entered the cold season. With the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care doubling in the past 10 days, the chancellor said, hospitals would be overwhelmed “within weeks” unless further steps were taken to limit the spread of the virus.
But Merkel’s “hasty” lockdown was met with cries of despair, especially from the culinary sectors. Despite guarantees of more government support, restaurants, bars and hotels will be hit hard by the new lockdown, although many owners say they have willingly complied with requests for new hygiene measures so far. There is little data to suggest that restaurants and bars where guests wear masks have led to the recent spike in infections.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) led the charge against Merkel’s second shutdown in the Bundestag. “We consider Ms. Merkel’s paralysis of the culture and gastronomy sector, in practice the full leisure life of our citizens, to be excessive and inappropriate,” said Alexander Gauland, a leader of the AfD.
Both Gauland and Christian Lindner, FDP leader, have not made concrete proposals for an alternative plan, such as closing schools. Merkel justified keeping nurseries and schools open “for the sake of the utmost importance of education.”
On Thursday, the German Disease Control Agency recorded 16,774 new infections during the past 24 hours, although the infection rate in Germany at the moment is still much lower than in neighboring countries such as France or Belgium.
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