“We must therefore act prudently and carefully so that a third wave does not require a new complete halt across Germany.”
Much of Europe is recording cases of newer versions of Covid-19, especially those that first appeared in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Both are thought to be spreading faster than previous versions.
In Germany’s chess approach to resuming work, hairdressers must resume operations on March 1, while most other companies must remain closed until March 7.
There are currently about 61.7 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in Germany, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the state public health authority. Merkel said the goal was to reduce the incident to 35 per 100,000 in order to open up the economy in a meaningful way.
Merkel defended the decisions of the states to reopen the schools, saying that the districts, which reach 35 per 100,000, can do it without affecting other districts.
She added that large-scale testing would be introduced in line with the country’s gradual resumption.
“The smart opening strategy is inextricably linked to comprehensive rapid tests, as if they were free tests,” Merkel added. “I can’t say exactly how long it will take to install such a system. But it will be in March.”
Germany managed to slow the rate of Covid-19 infection by blocking it, which included closing its borders with Austria and the Czech Republic. The Czech health authorities are currently confirming record daily cases of infection, with the death toll rising to one of the world’s worst per capita, pushing its hospitals to the brink of collapse.
Germany, like many European Union countries, is struggling to introduce a comprehensive vaccination program that would help speed up the opening of its economy. The European Union distributes its vaccines evenly among its 27 Member States, in proportion to their population, but has received tens of millions of doses less than expected.
The European Parliament is expected to bake out pharmaceutical companies at a public hearing on Thursday, demanding answers for non-compliance with the agreed number of vaccine doses.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has warned that restrictions in his country are beginning to lose their impact, stressing the urgent need to increase vaccine stocks in the bloc.
“The objective situation in Austria was simply that after six weeks, locking has lost its effect. People are sticking to it less and less, there are more and more relocations to the private sector and locking where no one is involved, of course, makes no sense.” he told the German newspaper Bild.
On Thursday, he will urge the European Union to set up a “green passport” system to allow people who have been vaccinated to travel within the bloc.
While Germany and several other European countries are considering how to lift their restrictions, France – which has opposed a new national blockade with the emergence of new options – is imposing new ones. President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce new measures on Thursday.
The French Riviera is under blockade over the weekend, over the next two weeks, while the region around the northern port city of Dunkirk will begin over the weekend on Saturday.