Guy Chazan in Berlin
Germany is to impose strict restrictions on social gatherings, as Angela Merkel warned that Germany could be facing more than 19,000 new infections a day by Christmas unless more efforts were made to curtail the spread of coronavirus.
Authorities also imposed a minimum fine of €50 for anyone giving false contact details in bars and restaurants, amid rising concern about lying on contact forms.
Germany has been spared the sharp increases in Covid cases seen in countries like France and Spain, but it has still seen new infections rise considerably, to 2,089 on Tuesday, up from about 300 a day in July.
A statement issued after Tuesday’s video conference between Ms Merkel and the prime ministers of the 16 states blamed the increase on people returning from holidays abroad.
“We must be particularly careful now, in view of falling temperatures, the increased time that people will be spending in enclosed spaces during autumn and winter, and the looming flu season,” the statement said.
After the video conference, Ms Merkel said that from now on a maximum of 50 people would be allowed to attend private parties in public or rented premises. She also “strongly recommended” that no more than 25 people attend parties in private premises.
The rules will only apply in areas that have seen an incidence of 35 or more coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. For areas which have seen 50 or more cases per 100,000 people, the ceiling will be lowered to 25 people in public areas and 10 people in private premises.
Ms Merkel noted that the number of new infections in Germany had doubled three times since the start of July, from about 300 to 2,400 in late September. She said that if that pattern continued in the coming months, then the new cases would rise to 4,800 in October, 9,600 in November and 19,200 by late December.
“That underscores the urgent need for us to act — and in particular in those places where we have an exponential increase,” Ms Merkel said.
She said that Germany still had a better record than other countries, with the rate of infection doubling only three times in three months, compared with the UK, where cases were recently doubling every eight days.
But she said that could change as the weather worsened and people were forced to spend more time indoors. “If we want to meet our aspiration to trace all chains of infection in order to interrupt them, then that is easier to do with 300 cases than with 2,400,” she said.