Berlin city authorities on Thursday announced tougher anti-coronavirus restrictions as the national government ramped up its vaccine roll-out across Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel pleaded for a “quiet Easter.”
Under new rules to apply from Friday, people in Berlin are only allowed to be outdoors alone or in pairs between 9 pm and 5 am, officials told dpa.
The current rules for daytime contacts are, however, to remain in place, with gatherings outdoors and at home limited to a maximum of five people from two households. Children are not included in the restrictions.
The regulations for private indoor gatherings will also be tightened from next Tuesday, with only members of one household plus one other person allowed to be together. No visits will be allowed between 9 pm and 5 am.
Chancellor Angela Merkel also launched an appeal for Germans to stricly adhere to the government rules aimed stemming the spread of the virus over the Easter holiday period.
“With our behaviour, we can again slow down, stop and then reverse the strong growth of infection figures,” Merkel said in a video podcast.
Doctors and nurses cannot win the fight against the pandemic alone, she said. “We will defeat the virus together,” the chancellor said.
She said this means above all “that it should be a quiet Easter, one in a small circle and urged people to refrain from all non-mandatory travel during what she described as a really difficult phase of the pandemic.
But she said April will bring major steps forward in the nation’s vaccination effort with German Health Minister Jens Spahn saying coronavirus vaccinations administered in doctors’ offices nation-wide are to be gradually ramped up.
He said 35,000 practices have ordered 1.4 million vaccine doses.
More than 3 million doses per week would be provided to practices by the end of April, Spahn said. In addition, the 430 vaccination centres set up across the country are to receive 2.25 million doses per week.
Germany is trying to stem a third wave of infections amid the rapid spread of the so-called British strain of the virus.
The number of new cases rose by 24,300 over the previous 24 hours, up from the 22,657 daily infections recorded a week earlier, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control said on Thursday.
The RKI said on Wednesday that 88 per cent of Germany’s coronavirus cases are now of the more contagious B117 variant.
But about 100 days after the German vaccination campaign was launched, only 5 per cent of the population have received the second vaccine dose and 11.6 per cent the first, the RKI said.
This also came against the backdrop of ongoing controversy surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine, with Germany and Canada this week restricting its use to people over 60.
On Thursday, Germany’s 65-year-old President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had his first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine. “I trust the vaccines approved in Germany,” he said.
But Germany’s 71-year-old Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has ruled out being immunised with AstraZeneca, according to a ministry spokeswoman.
Seehofer also rejected an appeal by Spahn to receive the vaccine, telling the health minister: “I will not be patronized,” according to a report in the daily Bild.