Germany will foreseeably maintain the “hard closure” until at least Easter. Experts from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), responsible for coordinating the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and several regional prime ministers spoke out on Thursday in favor of keeping schools, kindergartens, bars, restaurants, shops and sports centers closed until then. cultural, and even toughen the severe restrictions that have been in place in the country since before Christmas. “We must extend the ‘hard shutdown’ for at least 12 more weeks from February,” said Thuringian Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow, while Winfried Kretschmann, head of government in the federal state of Baden Württemberg, commented that the extension of restrictions beyond the end of the month is inevitable, while he spoke in favor of “more and even more severe measures.” Although it will not be until the end of the month and in the meeting with the federal chancellor, Angela Merkel, of the 16 regional heads of government when a decision is made on an extension of the “hard closure”, the latest figures and warnings from the RKI predict difficult times.
The virological institute registered 25,164 new coronavirus infections this Thursday and counted for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic the death of more than 1,200 people in 24 hours, 1,244 in total. The RKI stressed that the incidence in seven days of the virus per 100,000 inhabitants is currently 151.2 cases throughout Germany, three times less than in Spain, but cause for sufficient alarm to demand more discipline and sacrifice on the part of the population. High rates of infection favor coronavirus mutations, warned Lothar Wieler, president of the RKI in his first press conference since the beginning of the new year, in which he expressed his great concern about the new and more aggressive variants emerging in Great Britain and South Africa. “So far we cannot assess what effects the new mutations have in Germany, but we must start from the assumption that they can spread in this country and significantly worsen the situation,” commented Wieler, who explained that “the new variants spread more rapidly with activities travelers ”and appealed to the population to renounce unnecessary trips and to renounce all contact that is not essential.
Merkel herself has been in favor of increasing the severity of the restrictive measures and extending the “hard closure” for as many weeks as necessary until the incidence of the virus falls to less than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in a week. “Germany faces eight to ten very tough weeks,” said the Federal Chancellor during a closed-door meeting with members of the parliamentary group of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), some participants told the press. Like the scientists, among whom she is counted professionally, the conservative politics were very concerned at that appointment about the possibility that the new variant of the virus would spread through Germany in an explosive way, as it happens in Great Britain or Ireland. In the latter country, it has led to the number of new infections increasing tenfold in a very short space of time. The RKI has so far recorded 16 cases of infection with the variant of the virus discovered in Great Britain and 4 with that from South Africa in Germany, but considers the threat of the spread of these mutations to be extremely worrying.
The epidemiologist Dirk Brockmann, an analyst of the development of the pandemic at the RKI, warned in turn that all the calculation models with which his institute works indicate that the restrictions must be further sharpened if it is to reduce infections and recover control of the pandemic. Wieler also spoke out in favor of more drastic measures. “The restrictions we apply now are not for me a ‘hard closure’, there are still too many exceptions,” said the RKI president, who appealed to German businessmen to further increase work from home and avoid concentrating their employees on offices: “Teleworking protects the health of all of us and for it to work we need more responsible entrepreneurs,” Wieler said.