Merkel Extends Social Distancing Rule Amid Local Virus Outbreaks


(Bloomberg) -- Germany extended its social distancing rules as well as a ban on large gatherings after several local coronavirus outbreaks in recent weeks rekindled fears of a possible second wave of the pandemic.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the country’s 16 states on Wednesday agreed to maintain social distancing of a minimum 1.5 meters and to prolong the prohibition of big events, such as fairs and concerts, until at least October. The announcement was made after Merkel met in person with the regional leaders in Berlin, the first such encounter after three months of only videoconferencing.

There will be some flexibility to carry out large gatherings, depending on the ability to trace back infections and to have proper hygiene measures in place, Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder said, adding that each state may interpret the new rules differently and that he was a bit concerned about a possible new spike in infection rates.

“Corona is like a spark that can trigger a new bush fire,” Soeder said.

Relative Success

While Germany was relatively successful in limiting the spread of the disease, isolated outbreaks in recent weeks at a local level have kept the authorities on their toes. On Wednesday, a meatpacking plant was ordered closed after 400 workers tested positive.

If a second wave were to hit, it wouldn’t trigger the type of lockdown seen in March, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said earlier on Wednesday. Even as it takes on additional debt of more than 200 billion euros this year, the country would have the financial wherewithal to respond to a renewed spike in the spread of the disease.

Still, it will require time and effort to put Europe’s largest economy back on track, Merkel said.

“The economic collapse is the most serious we’ve ever seen in the German Federal Republic,” Merkel said in the news conference alongside Soeder. “And we will require much energy to continue on a path that allows prosperity to flourish in our country.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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