Correspondent in Berlin
Chancellor Merkel’s fear, expressed in her dramatic speech to the full Bundestag this week, is now becoming a reality. The Record data is exceeded every day in the figures recorded by the Robert Koch Institute, which scores 29,875 infections and 598 deaths in the last 24 hours this Friday, with more than 6,000 daily infections and a total of 20,970 deceased patients. Some of the Bundesländer accept the repeated recommendation of “cessation” of public life, on which both the Chancellor and the National Academy of Sciences, the prestigious Leopoldina, insist. Berlin, for example, has already decreed as of December 20 and at least until January 10 the total closure of trade, with the sole exception of supermarkets and pharmacies, in addition to restricting private meetings to a maximum of five people belonging to two family nuclei. Bavaria and Saxony have already announced similar measures and schools are preparing to go online.
The extremely high incidence of this second wave has led the central government and regional governments to give up what until now was a priority, keep schools and nurseries open. Lower Saxony has already eliminated the obligation to attend classes until the end of the year. The regional Minister of Culture has argued that the educational system can make a “relevant contribution” to the collective effort to reduce contacts and stop the spread of the virus. The city-state of Berlin is studying extending the school holidays until January 11, one more week than the school calendar marks and each school has organized the move to the digital classroom. In other federal states the measure of the closure of schools will be taken depending on the incidence of new infections in each district, such as in Baden-Württenberg, where, with an incidence of 300 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days, all students would be affected to from 14 years of age. Bavaria already has a third of its 1.7 million schoolchildren in “hybrid mode” and universities closed, while Saxony closes schools as of Monday.
Merkel is scheduled for a meeting with the presidents of the Bundesländer on January 4 in which the situation will be reviewed and restrictions will be adapted, although several voices are requesting a preview of that videoconference. But until it happens, the president of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, is appealing to personal responsibility and that the citizens themselves restrict contacts as much as possible. Otherwise, he warned, there will be no alternative to a harsher break in public life. From the beginning of November and at least until January 10, gastronomy, leisure, sports and commerce will be closed, that decision has already been made. But the German administration does not rule out returning to an even more severe confinement than that decreed last March if the infection data does not decrease. “If the population alone is not capable of reducing its contacts by more than 60%, I see no other possibility than a tightening of the measures,” warned Wieler, who estimates the current reduction in contacts at 40%. “It is not enough, it is necessary to reduce them by 60%, as in spring, to take control of the evolution of infections,” he said, taking Ireland or Belgium as an example, which thanks to this reduction in contacts they have managed to successfully reduce the number of infections. “Our recommendation will always be that, regardless of the measures that states may take, we protect ourselves as much as we can,” he insisted, referring to the reduction in personal contacts, respect for the safety distance and the measures hygiene. “The German is a cultured and intelligent people, they will understand the gravity of the situation, that is why I appeal to the citizens to take charge of their own destiny,” were his words.
The evolution of infections, despite repeated record levels, seems to have stabilized after the entry into force of the new restrictions in early November, albeit at too high a level. “The situation continues to be very serious, it is even getting worse this week, and that stability we are talking about is very fragile, so that new infections can still grow exponentially if contacts are not drastically curtailed”, Wieler adventure, which justifies in these data the request to the population not to travel to be on vacation, to opt for virtual meetings or in an extremely small circle and to take these holidays as «an opportunity for silence and reflection, looking optimistically at the new year , who will bring us the vaccine ».
The incidence among Germans over 80, the group considered most vulnerable, is 248 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, when the goal is 50. At this time, twice as many infections are being recorded in nursing homes than in last spring, so the government asks that precautions be taken with this sector of the population.