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Germany Eyes Limiting Parties to Fight Coronavirus Spread

Iain Rogers and Arne Delfs
·3-min read
Germany Eyes Limiting Parties to Fight Coronavirus Spread
Germany Eyes Limiting Parties to Fight Coronavirus Spread

(Bloomberg) -- Germany may join other European nations in limiting the number of people at private and public gatherings in areas with high coronavirus infection rates, as officials across the continent labor to reverse a recent uptick in cases.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will recommend restricting private meetings to 25 people and public gatherings to 50 people when she holds talks with regional premiers via video conference on Tuesday, according to a draft proposal obtained by Bloomberg News.

The rules would apply to areas with more than 35 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over seven days, according to the paper. While the infection rate since late July was initially fueled by returning vacationers, individuals disregarding distancing rules are now the main concern.

“Given the dropping temperatures, the increased time spent indoors during the fall and winter, and the pending flu season, we must now be particularly careful,” the paper says.

Across Europe authorities are taking steps to try to regain control over the disease, with mandatory face-mask policies being adopted in parts of Italy, Spain’s central government pushing for a lockdown of Madrid, and the Dutch government cracking down on sporting events and bars.

Tobias Hans, premier of the western German state of Saarland and a member of Merkel’s CDU party, said that limits on gatherings, particularly for parties and weddings, are a sensible idea.

“It’s important that we act,” Hans, who will take part in Tuesday’s conference, said in an interview with ARD television. “This is not the time for parties with 300 people.”

Merkel warned on Monday that Germany could face more than 19,000 new Covid-19 cases a day by Christmas if the current trend isn’t halted. The country must act quickly to avoid the same rapid rise in infections experienced in European countries such as France and Spain, she told leaders of her party.

Since daily cases began ticking up around the start of August, Germany has relied on targeted local measures in the hardest-hit areas, aiming to avoid a repeat of the restrictions that hammered economic activity in the second quarter.

In a rare bright spot, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the original European epicenter of the pandemic, said that the country can be relatively optimistic on the next phase.

Conte, speaking at a joint news conference with visiting Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga, said the Italian health system has been strengthened, including measures on monitoring and prevention.

If health and safety rules continue to be respected, “we have the confidence to say that we can tackle the next phase of the pandemic with relative tranquility, moderate optimism,” Conte said.

The recent rise in cases in Germany has mostly been blamed on weddings and other family gatherings. There were 2,292 new virus cases in the 24 hours through Tuesday morning, taking the total to 288,631, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s a long way from the almost 7,000 cases reported at the height of the pandemic in late March.

The death rate has also been far lower than a few months ago, with the number of fatalities in the past 24 hours rising by four to 9,468.

According to the recommendations in the briefing paper for Tuesday’s talks, limits on gatherings could be tightened even further in places with a seven-day incidence of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Limits on alcohol sales could also be considered in areas with high infection rates, and fines of 50 euros ($58) levied if people give false information when registering at restaurants and bars.

(Updates with draft proposal from second paragraph, additional details in table)

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