Corona virus in Germany: the latest developments

According to Johns Hopkins University in Germany, more than 156,000 people have tested positive for the virus. 5,877 infected people have died, and around 110,000 have recovered.

The latest developments

  • Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil wants to legally establish a right to a home office. He is working on a corresponding law, which he will present by autumn, the SPD politician told the newspaper “Bild am Sonntag”. Anyone who wanted to do this and who was allowed to work there should be able to work in the home office, even if the corona pandemic was over. One could then either switch completely to home office or only for a day or two a week, Heil explained. According to initial estimates, the number of employees in the home office in the corona crisis rose from 12 to 25 percent of all employees. With “fair rules” he wanted to prevent work from eating too much into the private sphere, said the minister. Working from home should be a voluntary option for employees, not a must.
  • In view of the massive restrictions on fundamental rights, Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble has warned against subordinating everything to the protection of life. “If I hear that everything else has to resign from the protection of life, then I have to say: This is not correct in this absolute sense,” said Schäuble to the Berlin newspaper “Tagesspiegel”. If there is any absolute value in the Basic Law, then this is the dignity of man. The state had to ensure the best possible health care for everyone, but people would also continue to die from Corona. Schäuble also warned of a possible change in the mood among the population. “It gets harder the longer it takes,” he said.
  • Fresh foods are now significantly more expensive than last year. According to a study by the agricultural market information society (AMI), fresh food will cost around ten percent more this April than in the previous year. The Corona crisis is partly to blame. The price increase is particularly clear for some vegetables. AMI expert Thomas Els told the German press agency that an increase in prices of 27 percent was sometimes recorded in April compared to the same month in the previous year. The price increase could be due to a shortage of harvest helpers due to travel restrictions, but not every price increase is due to the pandemic: global demand also plays a role in pork, and the harder harvest last year for apples.
  • According to a report by the newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” (April 26), the federal government is now adopting a decentralized approach to the planned Corona warning app. The concept PEPP-PT (Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing), which was developed by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), came under criticism from data protectors because central servers play a greater role here. Therefore, the federal government now wants to push ahead with the use of a consistently decentralized software architecture. And with it an app that “uses the programming interfaces of the major providers of mobile operating systems that will be available shortly and at the same time integrates epidemiological quality assurance in the best possible way,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn and Chancellor Helge Braun. This should also include the possibility that citizens “can voluntarily transmit data on epidemiological research and quality assurance to the RKI in pseudonymized form”.
  • A crisis discussion at the highest level is planned for the beginning of next week for a billion dollar rescue package for Lufthansa, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis. As the German press agency learned on Saturday (April 25), Chancellor Angela Merkel, Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz, Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier, Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer and Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr want to negotiate state aid. The bailout package is worth nine to ten billion euros, government circles said. However, there is still controversy in the federal government in what form the federal government is helping Lufthansa and how much say the politicians should have in the event of a temporary state participation. Spohr expects that 10,000 jobs will be lost in his company. The fleet will shrink by around 100 aircraft, he said on Friday (April 24) in an internal message to the employees. Before the pandemic broke out, Lufthansa had around 130,000 employees and 760 aircraft worldwide.
  • The German government’s proxy pleads for a relaxation of contact restrictions in nursing homes. “We know that we have to be prepared to deal with the corona virus over a longer period of time. We also have to adapt the situation in the care facilities to this: blanket, restrictive visits are not a solution, ”said Andreas Westerfellhaus of the newspaper“ Die Welt ”. Nursing home residents need special protection, but they should not be completely isolated. The fact that some federal states had not implemented the corresponding decision and left no room for the institutions should not remain so. He urged the countries concerned to make improvements, said Westerfellhaus.
  • Economists expect a crisis of historic proportions. The economists of leading German financial institutions see the German economy partly unhinged. The corona crisis outshines everything, said Katharina Utermöhl from the Allianz Group in a survey. It predicts an 8.9 percent drop in economic output in 2020. Enzo Weber from the Institute for Labor Market and Vocational Research sees the decline at 8.4 percent. Deutsche Bank initially sticks to its forecast of a comparatively moderate decline in gross domestic product of 5.3 percent for the current year. Unemployment is expected to rise significantly, according to economists: Utermöhl is expecting a high of just under three million, Weber expects more than three million.
  • Germany will pay more into the EU budget after the corona pandemic. This is right and good, because the EU countries are affected by the crisis to different degrees, said Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday (April 23) after a video conference with the heads of state and government of the other EU countries. Merkel said she expected the EU aid program of up to 540 billion euros to enter into force on June 1st. She does not expect major hurdles, such as in the Bundestag. The Chancellor left it open how much more Germany will pay. The EU finance ministers had agreed on the package two weeks ago, and it has now been approved by the heads of state and government.

Pupil of the final year in a North Rhine-Westphalian high school. In the federal state, school operations are slowly starting up again.

Rolf Vennenbernd / dpa

The Bundestag has one Aid package for citizens and businesses decided (see «How does the German economy react to the virus?»). The parliamentarians also noted an emergency due to the pandemic. The hospitals, which have to postpone numerous operations and treatments due to the Corona crisis, also receive help. For this, they should be compensated financially, the government announced. The hospitals are also to receive a bonus of EUR 50,000 for each additional intensive care bed.

Germany benefits from the fact that the supply density of intensive care beds in hospitals is high by international comparison. This shows a beginning of April from the Federal Statistical Office published overviewbased on an OECD study.

Germany is comparatively well off

Intensive beds per 100,000 inhabitants

Germany (2017)Austria (2018)USA (2018)France (2018)Spain (2017)Italy (2020)Ireland (2016)33.928.925.816.39.78.65

According to this, in 2017 there were 33.9 intensive care beds per 100,000 inhabitants in Germany, whereby capacities are being expanded further in the current crisis. According to these statistics, Italy and Spain, which are particularly badly affected by the virus, are significantly worse off with values ​​of less than 10 (2020 and 2017). Germany also performed well internationally with around 6 beds per 1000 inhabitants (2017) in terms of the level of hospital beds.

Corona patients are treated in the intensive care unit of the Aachen University Hospital.

Corona patients are treated in the intensive care unit of the Aachen University Hospital.

Sascha Schuermann / Getty

The federal and state governments agreed on 22 March to ban the gathering of more than two people. This should initially apply for two weeks, but was last extended at least until May 3. Then the Easter holidays end in most federal states. There are only exceptions to the contact restrictions for relatives who live in their own household. Parties are also no longer allowed – neither outdoors nor in your own apartment. Cafes, restaurants and pubs have to close. Only food can be picked up or brought home. Hairdressers, cosmetic studios, massage practices and tattoo artists also had to shut down. On April 15, the Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of the federal states decided to ease the situation. Shops up to 800 square meters in area are allowed to reopen, and schools are to be gradually started up again. It starts with the older age groups in most federal states. Kindergartens and primary schools remain tight until further notice.

Merkel had already announced on March 16 that large parts of public life in Germany would be shut down: schools and daycare centers would be closed across the board. The orders apply in most federal states until the end of April or the beginning of May. The regulations in the countries are different. Bars, clubs, theaters, operas, gyms and playgrounds are also closed. Meetings such as in associations, churches, mosques and synagogues are no longer permitted. Restricted access rules apply to hospitals and care facilities. Vacation trips to Germany and abroad should no longer exist, said Merkel. Meanwhile, grocery stores, banks, petrol stations and drug stores remain open.

Since March 20, entry and exit at the borders with Switzerland, Austria, France, Luxembourg and Denmark are only possible at certain crossings. Only in “important exceptional cases”, such as “significant traffic disruption”, can the Federal Police exceptionally allow the border to be crossed elsewhere. A list of approved crossing points is on the ministry’s website available. Anyone traveling to Switzerland by train will only get to Basel. There, in the Badischer Bahnhof, which is operated by Deutsche Bahn, ends trains from Berlin and Kiel or Hamburg that should have gone to Interlaken Ost or Chur. The borders are now also controlled in intra-European air and sea transport.

All federal states have decided to wear a mask, but the rules vary. In Berlin, for example, masks only have to be worn on public transport. In other federal states, however, the mask requirement also applies when shopping.

  The Schattwald border crossing between Bavaria and Austria is currently closed.

The Schattwald border crossing between Bavaria and Austria is currently closed.

Hafner / Imago

The Federal Government warns against traveling abroad at least until the end of April – worldwide and without exception. “You have to expect increasing drastic restrictions in travel, quarantine measures and restrictions in public life,” says one Notice from the State Department.

The first infections with the corona virus were detected in Bavaria in January. This was especially the case in a company whose employees had had contact with a woman from China. Infections were also found in two German returnees from Wuhan. However, these cases did not lead to other known infections. At the end of February, a couple from the Heinsberg district in North Rhine-Westphalia was tested positive for the virus. The two other guests were infected at a carnival event. This was how the virus spread in Germany.

The health policy restrictions of economic and social life (“shutdown”) and the disruption of international supply chains put a massive strain on the economy. Intermediate products do not arrive in Germany, exports are less in demand or cannot be delivered, and domestic consumption is restricted. In the meantime, the first discontinued activities, including in the automotive industry and in retail, are starting up again.

Against this background, around 718,000 companies in Germany had registered short-time work by April 20. This announced the Federal Employment Agency on Wednesday (April 22nd). Almost every third company has now reported short-time work. Registrations continued to be received, but the curve flattens off significantly at a high level. How many people are affected can only be determined after the factories have settled. For comparison: In 2019, an average of around 1300 companies reported short-time work per month.

Estimates and scenarios for the depth and duration of the economic downturn in Germany are published almost daily, but these differ widely and are associated with high levels of uncertainty. The spring report published on April 8 by five leading economic research institutes expects real gross domestic product (GDP) to decline by 4.2 percent in 2020, followed by a strong recovery of 5.8 percent in the coming year. As a result of the shutdown in the current second quarter, GDP is likely to drop by 9.8 percent compared to the previous quarter, but it could pick up again in the third quarter.

The forecast of the five institutes was based, among other things, on the assumption that the shutdown would last five weeks – from mid-March to mid-April – and would then gradually be eased. In the meantime, large parts of the restrictions have been extended for the time being, which could increase the loss of growth. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its latest, forecast published on April 14 assume that German GDP will collapse by 7 percent this year and rise by 5.2 percent in 2021. For comparison: In the financial crisis of 2009, GDP shrank by 5.7 percent.

On March 23, the federal government launched a Corona package with aids in the hundreds of billions on the way. The proposals were dealt with in a hurry and approved by the Bundestag and Bundesrat within a few days. The package complements and extends measures that the government already presented in mid-March. In the meantime, the approval of loan applications and the payment of grants to self-employed and small businesses started quickly. Since then, the program has also been repeatedly adapted and supplemented in smaller points.

The aim of the aid is to secure jobs and companies during the temporary «freeze» of the economy. One of the core elements of the package is a fund endowed with 50 billion euros, from which one-off grants of up to 15,000 euros can be paid to small businesses (up to 10 employees) damaged by coronavirus, farmers, the self-employed and freelancers. Secondly, there are programs of the public credit institution for reconstruction (KfW) with cheap loans as liquidity aid for all companies. In addition, there are tax breaks, including the interest-free deferral of tax payments due in hardship cases.

A third element is an economic stabilization fund (WBS), through which the state can provide loan guarantees to larger companies. In special cases, the WBS can also acquire temporary holdings from companies to prevent their bankruptcy or hostile takeover. The fourth key element is easier access to short-time benefits.

Loud Ministry of Finance information The general government budgetary measures to combat the pandemic this year add up to a total of 453 billion euros. State guarantees amount to around 820 billion euros. To finance this, the federal government wants to take out new loans amounting to around 156 billion euros through an additional budget.

As the government spends more money and economic output and tax revenues decrease at the same time, the federal government expects a government deficit of 7.25 percent of GDP for the current year according to the 2020 stability program adopted on Wednesday (April 22) “based on a very preliminary assessment” and an increase in the Maastricht debt-to-GDP ratio to around 75 percent of GDP. The assumptions behind these estimates include a 6 percent drop in GDP. Every euro country has to present a stability program with such projections of the EU in April.

A transmission of the virus is through food or imported products unlikely according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. Nevertheless, you should wash your hands regularly and observe the hygiene rules when preparing food. Since viruses are sensitive to heat, the risk can be reduced by heating food.

How stable corona viruses are depends on many factors. This includes temperature, humidity and the nature of the surface. In general, viruses are not particularly stable on dry surfaces, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment writes. However, the virus could remain infectious for up to three hours as an aerosol, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on stainless steel and plastic. By directly sneezing or coughing an infected person, the pathogens can get on cutlery or dishes and survive there for a while. Infection via door handles is theoretically also possible, but only if the viruses get directly onto the handle by coughing or sneezing. If you do not have a handkerchief ready when you sneeze or cough, you should hold the crook of your arm in front of your mouth and nose. It is generally not advisable to touch your face with your hands.

The most important phone numbers for the corona virus in Germany:

  • General initial information: 115
  • Emergency medical service: 116 117
  • Ministry of Health Citizen Service: 030 346 465 100
  • Citizens’ Service of the Federal Foreign Office: 030 181 730 00

The most important news about developments outside Germany you’ll find here.

With agency material

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