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Sunday December 05, 2021

German minister sees several more months of virus curbs

By AFP
November 16, 2020

BERLIN: Germany may see four to five more months of coronavirus restrictions, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Sunday, dashing hopes of a quick end to a partial lockdown introduced two weeks ago.

"The infection numbers are still far too high -- much higher even than a fortnight ago," Altmaier told the Bild an Sonntag newspaper ahead of a government meeting on Monday to assess the progress of the restrictions.

Germany went into partial lockdown in early November, closing bars, restaurants, gyms and other recreational facilities but keeping schools and shops open. The number of new infections per day has since slowed but remains high, with a record of more than 23,000 reported on Friday.

"We will have to live with considerable precautions and restrictions for at least the next four to five months," Altmaier said. "Many people are now understandably hoping for a loosening (of restrictions), that restaurants or cinemas will reopen. But in view of the still far too high infection rates, we have little room for manoeuvre."

The restrictions agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states are provisionally in place until the end of November. But the leaders will meet again on Monday to decide whether to extend them or to introduce sharper restrictions. With more than 300,000 schoolchildren in quarantine, calls have been growing for schools to shut or at least move more of their lessons online.

"We are entering a situation where school operation is becoming a high risk for children, teachers, parents and grandparents," MP and epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach said in an interview with the Funke media group.

Several demonstrations against the restrictions were held on Saturday across Germany, including one in Frankfurt where water cannons were used against counter-demonstrators.

Germany has registered a total of 790,503 coronavirus cases and 12,485 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre. The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has soared from just over 360 in early October to more than 3,300 currently.

Neighbouring Austria, which also imposed a partial lockdown two weeks ago, announced on Saturday that schools and non-essential shops will close from Tuesday. Meanwhile, French police stepped up controls in Paris over the weekend to ensure residents were complying with strict lockdown rules imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19, amid signs that some people were breaching them.

Prime Minister Jean Castex has said people are not abiding by the rules as strictly as during the first lockdown back in the spring. Police had to break up an illegal party hosting up to 400 people at Joinville-Le-Pont near Paris early on Saturday.

Under the lockdown, in force since the end of October, people must stay indoors apart from trips to buy food or other essential goods, or for a brief hour of exercise.

They must also carry signed documents to justify why they are outside.Police were checking motorists travelling through the Bois de Boulogne in western Paris to make sure they had the necessary signed documents and were wearing masks, as required by the law.

A French landscape gardener who gave his name as Jules said he had noticed a pick-up in police controls.“I find there were a lot of checks during the first lockdown, while it has been light in terms of checks in the beginning of this one, to be honest,” said Jules, who was checked while out on his moped.

“However, I did notice that checks have been tightened over the past three days.”Jules had his papers in order but construction worker Stephane was not so lucky. He had forgotten to download the necessary form onto his mobile phone to explain why he was out on his moped and so was handed a 135 euro ($169) fine.“It is a mistake due to carelessness.

I normally generate it but I didn’t this time. Yes, forgetting it is quite expensive,” said Stephane.Coronavirus has killed at least 1,313,471 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP on Sunday.

At least 54,001,750 cases of have been registered. Of these, at least 34,599,700 are now considered recovered.The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organisation (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.