Coronavirus: Germany bans gatherings of more than two people

‘The danger lies in the direct social interaction’ state official says

Vincent Wood
Sunday 22 March 2020 17:51 GMT
Coronavirus in numbers

Germany will ban public meetings of more than two people as the nation works on slowing the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state has announced.

The policy does not apply to those who live in the same household, Chancellor Angela Merkel noted, in the latest measure to limit passage of the virus that has infected more than 22,000 people in the country but only led to 84 deaths – a significantly lower rate than that seen in the rest of the world.

“The danger lies in the direct social interaction,” state premier Armin Laschet said, adding that the federal government and regional states had agreed on the stricter rules.

While announcing the policy Ms Merkel thanked “the overwhelming majority” of Germans following rules on social distancing. Moments later she confirmed she would be quarantined after a doctor who had given her a vaccination tested positive for the virus.

“I know that it means sacrifice,” she said, ”I’m moved by the fact that so many are abiding by these rules. This way we show care for older and sick people, because the virus is most dangerous to them. In short: we are saving lives with this.”

Ms Merkel, in comments that came seconds before her own isolation, added: “With a certain distance the risk of infections is reduced almost to zero. Whether you are half a meter apart or 1.5 meters apart makes a huge difference.”

Public spaces had already fallen quiet on Saturday after a number of states imposed quarantine measures and called on citizens to stay at home as part of a partial lockdown of the nation.

Breaches of the orders remained relatively low, according to Die Welt, with the state of Saarland reporting roughly 20 incidents overnight.

Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that while he understood the need for “fresh air”, he was disappointed to see small instances of people flouting government guidance and socialising in groups.

“Maybe we can nudge the others a little bit to suck it up so that we can protect ourselves from further restrictions on freedoms,” he said.

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