German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday imposed a four-week Wuhan coronavirus lockdown across the country, claiming “human lives depend on it.” Germany’s state media described the move as “lockdown-lite” in which schools shall remain open, but restaurants would be closed and public event banned. The measures, set to take effect on Monday, are the toughest since Germany began easing the lockdown in May.

The announcement comes as Germany, along with many European countries, saw a resurgence of the Chinese virus in recent weeks. On Thursday, the country reported more than 16,700 news cases of the pandemic, setting a daily record since the virus first appeared late last year. “We are in a very serious situation,” Merkel told reporters. “We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency.”

German news agency dpa reported extent of the new lockdown:

Germany’s federal and state governments agreed on Wednesday to a shutdown for the month of November in a bid to get the situation under control before Christmas.

Cultural and recreational facilities will shut as well as restaurants and bars, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to members of no more than two households, with a maximum of 10 people. The sweeping restrictions come into effect on Monday.

Fans will also be banned from top-level football matches in the Bundesliga, amateur sport will not take place, and gyms, pools, cosmetic studios, massage parlours and tattoo studios will have to close.

The announcement of the new restrictions has led to concerns for businesses already struggling after the first round of closures seen in March and April.

France also joined Germany in reintroducing coronavirus restrictions. On Thursday, the French parliament overwhelmingly approved a second lockdown. “France goes into a second nationwide lockdown this year starting midnight Thursday,” the news channel France24 reported.

German Chancellor faces opposition from within her own Christian Democratic party (CDU) for reinstating the restrictions. “The generalized fear of the so-called second wave of coronavirus spread by the political class and the media is unfounded,” Hans Pistner, a senior CDU politician said. Party’s conservative wing demanded the roll back of the new restrictions which impinging the freedom and privacy of the individual.

Merkel on Thursday was combative in her response. “Freedom isn’t being able to do whatever you want,” she told dissenting Germans.

German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported growing dissatisfaction with Merkel’s coronavirus policies:

Many Berlin restaurant owners, for example, have said they would probably have to close down their business if faced with a second lockdown. They have already seen losses after the closure in the spring, followed by rules that forced them to adhere to social distancing regulations and then the curfew imposed last month.

Several news outlets also reported that financing the new measures would push the amount of debt Germany was in for 2021 well over €100 billion ($117 billion). Finance Minister Olaf Scholz had planned a sum of €96 billion to help businesses ride out the pandemic next year, but the new aid package could cost €10 billion more.

The opposition pro-business liberal Free Democrats have spoken out against another shutdown of the hospitality sector. “I believe it is unnecessary and unconstitutional,” party leader Christian Lindner wrote on Twitter before Wednesday’s meeting.

For many in Germany, the question of individual freedom is at least as important as a thriving economy. Leaders of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is the largest opposition party in the German federal parliament, have been among those the most widely critical of further restrictions.

“No measures — including lockdowns — have had a demonstrable influence on the infection rate, but the lockdown fantasies of government politicians are becoming increasingly absurd,” the AfD parliamentary leader Alexander Gauland said in a statement on Tuesday.

Democracy in Germany was being ‘deformed’ by Chancellor Merkel’s actions, head of the center-right Free Democrats (FDP), Christian Lindner, warned.

Germany’s leading opposition party, the right-wing AfD, also opposed the new measures. Germany under Merkel was on its way to ‘dictatorship’ given the powergrab by the government in wake of the pandemic, AfD’s parliamentary chief Alexander Gauland said. German Chancellor was guilty of spreading misinformation and “wartime propaganda,” he cautioned.

“Another lockdown will be a knockdown for a number of companies and employees,” the AfD national spokesman, Jörg Meuthen, said. “Merkel’s first lockdown earlier this year claimed around a million jobs and hundreds of thousands of employees saw their working hours curtailed. Numerous companies are still fighting to survive.”

[Excerpts from German translated by the author]

 

 
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