Germany seeks ban on big events until at least end-October

By: AFP      Published: 05:06 PM, 17 Jun, 2020
Germany seeks ban on big events until at least end-October

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is seeking to ban large events until at least the end of October over fears of renewed coronavirus transmission, according to an official draft policy document seen by AFP on Wednesday.

Berlin also plans for schools to return to normal operations after the summer holidays, although recommendations for social distancing and mask wearing in shops and on public transport will stay, according to the document to be discussed by Merkel and premiers of Germany's 16 states later Wednesday.

If agreed on by the state premiers, the ban on large events could affect shows such as the Frankfurt book fair. Organisers of the book fair, which draws around 300,000 visitors, had until now said they planned to go ahead.

With new infection rates sharply down from highs in March and a death toll significantly lower than those of its neighbours, Germany became the first major EU country to begin easing virus restrictions about six weeks ago.

The government noted that rules to maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) as well as requirements to cover up noses and mouths in closed public spaces have helped in the fight against new transmissions.

It is now counting on contact tracing -- both through human trackers as well as through a new app -- to ensure that any new infections are isolated. The government added that large-scale testing for the virus would be carried out in places with "groups of vulnerable people".

Merkel has repeatedly warned against complacency before a viable vaccine is found. Underlining the volatility of the situation, an outbreak in a slaughterhouse in western Germany's Rheda-Wiedenbrueck region led 400 workers to test positive for the virus. And in one Berlin neighbourhood, 370 families living in high-rise flats have been put under quarantine after 70 infections were detected.