Germany's virus situation 'very serious': health body

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Chancellor Angela Merkel defended a heavily rejected new law on Saturday that imposes strict coronavirus restrictions across Germany, including curfews and school closings.

With many of its neighbors lifting restrictions despite higher virus rates, Europe’s largest economy is bucking the trend with the new national law dubbed the ’emergency brake’.

The law, which was passed this week amid large protests in Berlin, prescribes uniform national restrictions and is intended to end a tug-of-war between the federal government and the 16 federal states.

The law “is something new in our fight against the pandemic. And I am convinced that we urgently need it,” said Merkel in her weekly video podcast.

“If we can manage to reduce infections significantly and quickly, there will be a gradual opening in the near future,” she added.

As of Saturday, strict measures will apply in all regions with incidence rates of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people in the past seven days, including extensive shutdowns and overnight curfews.

Schools must also use virtual teaching in areas with an incidence rate greater than 165.

Eight German federal states had an incidence rate of over 165 on Friday, the national average was 164.

‘Authoritarian Fig Leaf’

The conservative daily Die Welt called the new law “an authoritarian fig leaf that is supposed to hide strategy, vaccination and testing errors”.

The liberal, business-friendly FDP party has vowed to take legal action to overthrow it. Party leader Christian Lindner calls them “unconstitutional”.

After Munich was confirmed on Friday as the venue for the upcoming 2020 European Football Championship, which begins in June, the new law depends on whether fans are allowed to participate, which ultimately depends on the infection rate.

The Mayor of Munich said there was no “guarantee”, contradicting a statement by UEFA that the southern German city would take in “at least 14,500 spectators” at its four games.

Munich had an incidence rate of 148.2 on Friday.

The new restrictions have also created confusion on the issue of traveling through areas with high incidence rates.

“Those who do not want to commit an administrative offense are not allowed to cross the affected districts by car, train or even by plane during the curfew,” said Wolfgang Kubicki from the FDP to the daily Bild newspaper.

Virus restrictions in Germany had previously been decided in consultations between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of state and government of the 16 states, with the regions ultimately being responsible for their implementation.

In many cases, however, regional leaders have failed to take shutdown measures agreed with Merkel, and many have chosen to interpret the rules broadly.

The German health department of the Robert Koch Institute reported 23,392 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours and 286 deaths on Saturday, a day after Lars Schaade warned the authority that the numbers were “still too high”.

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