Germany, where criticism is mounting against a vaccination campaign deemed too slow, is preparing on Tuesday to extend its restrictions against the COVID-19 pandemic, including the closure of schools.
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Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 regional states are expected to decide on Tuesday by videoconference that these limitations be extended beyond January 10.
A majority of regions would be in favor of an extension until January 31.
Businesses, with the exception of food stores and pharmacies, schools, kindergartens and cultural venues should therefore keep their doors closed in the coming weeks. Employers are encouraged to favor telework at all costs.
Considered a European “good pupil” in the management of the first epidemic wave, Germany now has great difficulty in containing the virus, in particular in the Länder of the former GDR.
The threshold of 1,000 daily deaths was thus crossed for the first time on December 30. Some 1,775 million cases have been identified in total since the start of the pandemic, which has killed more than 34,000.
And the impact of going on vacation and family reunions is not yet known, warn health authorities.
“There is little room for flexibility,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert summed up Monday.
The “historic” crisis of the coronavirus is expected to continue in 2021, for his part warned on December 31, Mr.me Merkel in her final New Year’s greetings as Chancellor.
The situation remains particularly critical in Saxony, a former GDR state-region for a long time resistant to restrictions, the incidence rate of which reached Monday 323. Other regions of East Germany, such as Thuringia or Brandenburg, region surrounding Berlin, are also hit hard.
An extension of the restrictions is thus deemed “inevitable” by the Minister-President of Saxony, the conservative Michael Kretschmer, who a few weeks ago still castigated the “hysteria” of anti-COVID-19 measures.
Given as an example before the summer, Germany, where an anti-mask movement has emerged mixing vaccine refractors, followers of conspiracy theories and far-right activists, has failed since September to take effective measures against the coronavirus.
Angela Merkel, whose popularity remains very high with less than a year of her departure from the chancellery, was unable in early autumn to impose stricter measures on regions worried about the loss of ‘economic activity.
The management of the second wave thus borders on the “big failure”, according to the daily Die Welt, pointing to “hesitations, quarrels over competences and strategic errors”.
In addition to the restrictions, Germany is relying heavily on the vaccination campaign launched on Saturday to contain the epidemic.
More than 264,000 elderly people and nursing staff received a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday.
If the vaccination rate is much faster than many European neighbors, in particular France, voices are being raised in Germany to criticize its supposed slowness.
Some 44% of Germans are not convinced by the vaccine strategy, compared to 40% who think the opposite, according to a Civey poll.
Daily Bild, the most widely read in Germany, is leading a campaign against the government, accused of having “relied too much on the European Union” in its vaccination strategy and its supply, and of favoring the only Pfizer-BioNTech product to the detriment of the Moderna vaccine.
“We cannot make our impatience the measure of all things and snatch the vaccine from the inhabitants of the poorest regions of the world,” retorts the President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schaüble, to those who demand that Germany be a priority to receive the vaccine developed by the German BioNTech.
Germany will be able to bet, according to the Ministry of Health, on a combined total of more than 140 million doses of BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Some 670,000 doses are expected to be delivered on January 8 by BioNTech.
The government is also examining the possibility of maximizing the period between the two injections to allow more patients to be vaccinated before stocks run out.