Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet approved several amendments to the country’s Infection Protection Act on Tuesday, including a mandatory nationwide “emergency brake” to give more powers to the federal government to enforce lockdown measures.
Merkel told a news conference after the Cabinet meeting that it has become necessary to adopt uniform measures that would be mandatory in all federal states to bring a third coronavirus wave under control.
“A nationwide applicable emergency brake was long overdue – even though it might be difficult to hear it yet again – the situation is really serious, we must all take it seriously,” she said.
Merkel warned that a third wave could be the worst as the number of new infections, and patients in intensive care units were increasing at an alarming rate.
According to the “emergency brake” rule, it would be mandatory for federal states to implement strict lockdown measures if new infections per 100,000 people exceed 100 for three consecutive days.
Possible measures will include closing all non-essential shops, strict restrictions on social gatherings of any kind and curfews between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Merkel’s government and federal states had been at odds in recent weeks because of the reluctance of several states to implement stricter lockdown measures despite an alarming increase in infections.
Parliament is expected to discuss and vote on the new legislation within two weeks.
Germany currently has the fifth-highest tally of infections in Western Europe behind France, the UK, Italy, and Spain.
The Robert Koch Institute registered 10,810 additional coronavirus cases and 294 additional deaths on Tuesday but it said the figures should be interpreted with caution due to delayed reporting during the holiday period.
There were an estimated 243,000 active cases in Germany as of Tuesday, according to the institute.
Currently, 4,688 seriously ill patients are receiving treatment in intensive care units, with 2,666 on mechanical ventilators.