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20 Mar, 2020 13:02

Germany says coronavirus LOCKDOWN will happen if people continue to socialize & Saturday’s the ‘decisive’ test

Germany says coronavirus LOCKDOWN will happen if people continue to socialize & Saturday’s the ‘decisive’ test

Saturday will be the crucial day for German officials to decide whether a strict lockdown is needed to slow the spread of Covid-19 – and the decision will depend on whether people can voluntarily rein in their socializing or not.

“We will look at the behavior of the population this weekend,” Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun told Der Spiegel on Friday, adding that Saturday will be the “decisive” day with authorities keeping a “close eye” on how people act.

Germans are already under instruction to stay indoors and avoid the usual mixing and mingling with others, as the novel coronavirus spreads rapidly in the country. Pubs, clubs and non-essential shops have already been closed and large gatherings have been banned by some German states — but there is no official national lockdown of the kind that has been imposed in France, Spain and Italy, and many people are still meeting outdoors in large groups. 

Braun said normal socializing “must be stopped now” and, if that doesn’t happen, it’s possible that “more far-reaching measures” will be implemented — yet so far it seems that responsibility to restrict movement lies with the individual.

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Imposing a lockdown is still something Berlin wants to “avoid” if it can. “If we look at neighboring countries that have already imposed lockdowns, it becomes clear that this would be an enormous additional burden,” Braun said.

France began a 15-day lockdown on Tuesday, with 100,000 police deployed to the streets to enforce the strict measures, and citizens needing a government form stating their reasons for movement. Italy has been on lockdown since March 9 after it had quickly become the pandemic’s epicenter in Europe.

Merkel is due to hold a conference call with the heads of the German federal states on Sunday and will assess whether or not a lockdown is necessary and when it should be imposed. Some cities and towns have already announced their own lockdown measures, in the absence of a specific nationwide policy.

The small Bavarian town of Mitterteich was the first in Germany to impose a full lockdown, with residents unable to leave their homes without giving a valid reason like going to work, shopping for groceries or seeking medical help. The cities of Freiburg and Leverkusen have also announced lockdown measures — and the State of Bavaria announced a full lockdown on Friday.

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The coronavirus threat risk for Germany was raised on Tuesday from “moderate” to “high” by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German agency responsible for disease control. The agency also warned this week that nearly 10 million people could become infected with Covid-19 over the next three months if serious measures are not in place to restrict the spread.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 rose in the country by nearly 3,000 between Thursday and Friday, bringing the total to nearly 14,000. Germany has so far experienced an unusually low death rate (0.22 percent) from the virus in comparison to other countries, however, with only 31 deaths recorded so far.

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