In a joint press conference, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) and the President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) Lothar Wieler will again inform about the Corona situation on Friday morning.
The nationwide corona incidence has been rising again for weeks. The number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (seven-day incidence) was 119.1 nationwide on Friday morning. At the moment, the number of new infections is increasing too quickly, said Spahn in the federal press conference. If this continues, there is a risk that the health system will reach its limits. “We cannot yet organize Easter as we are used to,” said Spahn. Although “we have reached the last part of the pandemic marathon”, this part is a particularly difficult one.
Spahn emphasized that from April, as announced, more vaccine will be available. But he emphasized: “The effect of vaccination is currently being diminished by the increasing number of infections,” said Spahn. “The higher the incidence, the less the vaccination helps to push the numbers down,” emphasized the health minister. In the second prioritization group of the vaccination campaign, unfortunately, there is not quite as strong a willingness to vaccinate as in the first group, which mainly includes the very old.
“We are facing very difficult weeks,” affirmed RKI boss Wieler. From a scientific point of view, there are “very clear signals” that the current pandemic wave could become worse than the first two waves. You have to be prepared for sharply rising numbers and rising deaths. The situation will get worse. “So we can no longer prevent this wave, but we can try to flatten it,” said Wieler and appealed urgently: “Please protect yourself and others consistently!” Just because there are now more quick and self-tests and many older people are vaccinated, that doesn’t mean that the rules of distance and hygiene can be neglected.
Spahn and Wieler asked emphatically that they only meet a few people over Easter and that they do so outside in the fresh air if possible – or, where this is not possible, with protection with masks and a safe distance.
Most recently, the Easter measures and trips abroad have been discussed. The plan of the federal and state governments to curb the spread of the pandemic with a five-day “Easter break” is off the table after some back and forth and a sensational apology from the Chancellor. “The problem,” stressed Spahn, “is not gone just because the rest days do not take place as planned”.
According to Spahn, the new entry regulations, according to which all air travelers to Germany have to show a negative coronavirus test, come into effect on Monday night and not on Sunday as originally planned. The federal government wanted to give travelers and airlines a little more time to implement the measure. Spahn emphasizes, however, that the measure is not a “game changer”.
Further details on the new regulations for trips abroad during the Easter holidays are still unclear. The federal government is still examining whether travel to popular holiday destinations can be prohibited regardless of the incidence. France could be classified as a corona high incidence area today, as Chancellor Angela Merkel promised.
Merkel: There are “considerable legal concerns” against travel bans
Chancellor Angela Merkel is sticking to the examination of a restriction on holiday trips abroad, but admits that there are “significant legal concerns”. She asked the departments concerned to examine such a restriction “comprehensively and really deeply,” says Merkel. “We cannot act illegally,” she added.
Foreign Minister Maas also called for a very careful examination. “I think after the last few days it is very important that the things that we have put on the way can be implemented afterwards,” he said, referring to the back and forth over the so-called Easter rest.
A travel ban would be “a very far-reaching cut in human freedom,” Maas emphasized. On the other hand, the current infection situation is also exceptional. “It’s not an easy trade-off,” said the Foreign Minister.
On Wednesday it became known that the Chancellor had commissioned the responsible departments to examine how to prevent a wave of travel to Mallorca, for example, in the middle of the corona pandemic. The lifting of the travel warning for the Germans’ favorite island had triggered a booking boom for Easter.
The general mandatory entry test should apply from Sunday
The planned general corona test obligation for entry by plane to Germany should apply from this Sunday at midnight. The reason is that travelers and airlines can adjust to it, it said from the Federal Ministry of Health.
RKI: 21 573 new corona infections and 183 new deaths
The health authorities in Germany reported 21 573 new corona infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within one day. In addition, 183 new deaths were recorded within 24 hours. That comes from the numbers from Friday. Exactly one week ago, the RKI had recorded 17,482 new infections and 226 new deaths within one day.
The data reflect the status of the RKI dashboard from 5:05 a.m., subsequent changes or additions to the RKI are possible. The number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (seven-day incidence) was 119.1 nationwide on Friday morning – and thus higher than the previous day (113.3).
The RKI has counted 2,734,753 detected infections with Sars-CoV-2 in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic. The actual total number is likely to be significantly higher, as many infections are not detected. The RKI stated the number of those who had recovered at around 2,467,600. The total number of people who died with or with a proven Sars-CoV-2 infection rose to 75,623.
According to the RKI management report on Thursday evening, the nationwide seven-day R-value was 1.08 (previous day 1.00). This means that 100 infected people theoretically infect 108 more people. The value represents the occurrence of the infection 8 to 16 days ago. If it is below 1 for a longer period of time, the infection process subsides; if it is consistently higher, the number of cases increases.
Church congregations should themselves decide on face-to-face services at Easter
The federal government is withdrawing its request to the churches not to attend church services over Easter. On Thursday, the Federal Press Office sent out a new version of the resolutions of the Bund-Länder-Round from early Tuesday morning, in which the entire passage about the originally planned Easter rest is omitted. This means that the sentence contained there is also omitted: “The federal government and the states will approach the religious communities with the request that religious meetings only be held virtually during this time.”
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) announced that the decision on attendance services on Good Friday and Easter should be made by the individual parishes depending on the Corona situation. The decisions were “made responsibly, taking into account the pandemic situation on site – in particular the incidence values”. In all face-to-face services, strict hygiene and protection concepts apply “which will also take into account the changed situation due to the particularly aggressive virus mutation”. An EKD spokesman told the Evangelical Press Service that a similar regulation applies to that at Christmas.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) withdrew the agreements on two additional “rest days” over Easter on Wednesday. She apologized and justified the step with difficulties in implementation. When asked whether this would also remove the request to religious communities, the deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer initially only answered evasively. The request to refrain from attendance at church services met with resistance in the Catholic and Protestant churches. Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) had criticized the request.
As a model region, Saarland wants to loosen massively after Easter
The Saarland will exit the corona lockdown after Easter. From April 6th – the Tuesday after the holidays – cinemas, fitness studios and outdoor restaurants are to reopen. The prerequisite is a daily negative rapid test, said Prime Minister Tobias Hans (CDU) on Thursday. The long-lasting restrictions were reaching their limits more and more. Therefore: “From April 6th, more private and more public life will be possible again.” There could be further opening steps after April 18: in restaurants, in volunteer work, in schools.
The Saarland head of government announced that the contact restrictions in force due to the pandemic will also be relaxed. For private outdoor meetings, up to ten people should be allowed in the first step. Contact sports outdoors will then be possible again: “Always in combination with tests,” emphasized Hans.
The Saarland is starting a model project for this exit plan, said the CDU politician. At the latest Corona summit, the federal and state governments decided that temporary model projects should be possible in states and individual regions – “with strict protective measures and a test concept to open up individual areas of public life”.
The Saarland has the best prerequisites for such a model project, said Hans. On the one hand, the seven-day incidence in the smallest German area is currently around 70, one of the lowest in Germany. Second, the Saarland already has a good infrastructure for tests. There are 41 test centers in the country, and more than 300 doctors and pharmacies offer free rapid antigen tests. Saarland ordered 2.5 million rapid tests early on.
After all, the vaccination rate is high in Saarland with just under one million inhabitants. So far, around 150,000 vaccinations against the coronavirus have been carried out, around 110,000 of which are primary vaccinations. With a rate of 11.4 percent for initial vaccinations, the state is at the top of the federal states, two percentage points above the national average, said Hans.
There are many federal states that have announced that they want to identify such model regions now. “But we are the only federal state that does that as a whole. That is why we also call our project the Saarland model,” said Hans.