Sources: German Cabinet agrees new national rules to fight virus

By dpa correspondents

The German Cabinet has agreed on a new set of national rules, including night-time curfews, which would override state-level measures to combat high coronavirus infection numbers, sources told dpa on Tuesday.

After several weeks in which government policy has looked confused – including the last-minute scrapping of an Easter lockdown – Chancellor Angela Merkel and other political leaders have pushed for a streamlined set of rules at the federal level.

The measures agreed by the Cabinet on Tuesday will amend the country’s current pandemic legislation, and – if approved by parliament – will mean many parts of the country will go straight into a stricter lockdown.

The move to impose national rules has been controversial in Germany, where a federal system means states have been able to largely decide how and when to combat local outbreaks.

Germany is however facing a third wave of the pandemic, which Merkel said on Monday was “maybe the hardest” so far.

The most controversial part of the so-called “emergency brake” is a mandatory night-time curfew from 9 pm to 5 am if infection numbers in any particular area rise too high.

The key level is an incidence rate of 100. This measures the number of new infections per 100,000 people over the past week. According to the new legislation, the emergency brake kicks in once the incidence rate in any given district stays above 100 for three consecutive days.

Other measures include: limiting gatherings to one household plus one other person and their children; limiting funerals to 15 people; the shutting of most shops and cultural or leisure facilities, apart from outlets selling food and drink, petrol, medical supplies, pet supplies, flowers, newspapers.

Restaurants will be allowed to deliver food, while tourists will not be allowed to stay overnight.

Under the new rules, schools would only be allowed to open if pupils take two coronavirus rapid tests per week. If the incidence rate goes above 200 in a given area, in-person lessons would be banned completely.

The bill still needs approval in parliament, where the government is seeking to use fast-track procedures to push it through quickly – this will however require the backing of the opposition.

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