Curfews in Berlin, Hamburg and Brandenburg to prevent crowds

Merkel seeks coherent policy with other state leaders in effort to reduce Covid third wave

 People sit in the sun in Berlin: From Friday, the city has banned all gatherings of more than two people between 9pm and 5am. Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty

People sit in the sun in Berlin: From Friday, the city has banned all gatherings of more than two people between 9pm and 5am. Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty

 

With a summery Easter weekend looming, Berlin, Hamburg and Brandenburg have imposed night-time restrictions in response to recent gatherings of crowds in defiance of Covid-19 rules.

Hamburg and Brandenburg have already imposed a curfew between 9pm and 10pm respectively and 5am. From Friday, Berlin has banned all gatherings of more than two people between 9pm and 5am.

After Easter, gatherings in Berlin are once again limited to one person meeting another household, while kindergartens in the capital will be closed for all but children of key workers. It remains unclear whether Berlin schools will re-open after the Easter break.

“We’ve had pictures of 100, 200 people in park, that’s just not on,” said Michael Müller, governing mayor of Berlin. “Politics can set a framework and carry out spot checks but in the end we all know: you cannot police every corner of Berlin.”

Data for Berlin shows infection rates in some districts running double the level supposed to trigger so-called “emergency brake” lockdown measures.

Pandemic response

Berlin’s approach – involving free tests and shopping by appointment – has been mirrored in other German states, but has attracted the ire of chancellor Angela Merkel.

Last Sunday, she threatened to centralise Germany’s pandemic response unless state leaders adhered more strictly to the latest pandemic plan. She is still wrangling behind the scenes with the 16 state leaders over a coherent, sustainable approach to a third wave of the virus.

Nearly a week on, many federal states are edging towards greater restrictions. Bremen and most counties in Bavaria have imposed curfews while other states are signalling they will follow.

After days of bad-tempered rows on pandemic restrictions, Bavarian minister president Markus Söder has urged fellow state leaders to fall into line behind the more restrictive Merkel stance.

“For some weeks, the third wave is rolling relentlessly through the country, the situation is serious – more serious than many believe,” he wrote in a letter with Winfried Kretschmann, minister president of neighbouring Baden-Württemberg. “We have to live up to our responsibility and cannot discuss further. The virus tolerates no delay.”

Path ahead

That was a pointed riposte to Armin Laschet, leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and an opponent of Dr Merkel’s “lockdown logic”. On Tuesday evening he urged German politicians “to reflect over Easter” about the path ahead.

With 90 per cent of cases in Germany now linked to Covid-19 mutations, Dr Merkel used her weekly podcast on Thursday to urge renewed vigilance over Easter: “Germany is facing a new pandemic, just like a year ago.”

Germany’s seven-day incidence rate is rising steadily, reaching 134 per 100,000 of population over the last seven days on Thursday nationwide.

Two days after Berlin suspended the use of the AstraZeneca virus, pending further investigation of blood-clot concerns among under-60s, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier became the first German public figure to be vaccinated in public – with the British-Swedish jab.

On Tuesday, the 66-year-old chancellor said she would be delighted to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca – a day that, given the new restricted usage, had moved closer.