Germany agrees no-mask fines, group limits in virus fight
Germany will impose tougher rules on mask wearing and keep fans out of stadiums until at the least the end of the year to combat a worrying rise in coronavirus infections, under a draft seen by AFP on Thursday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to meet with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states later Thursday to officially agree the new measures, which will apply nationwide.
They will include a minimum fine of 50 euros ($59) for flouting requirements on mask wearing.
Until now each German state has set its own fines with penalties varying wildly, from 40 euros in Hamburg to 250 euros in Bavaria.
Germany also plans to extend a ban on large events from the end of October until the end of the year. It applies to everything from festivals and concerts to large sporting events with spectators.
The decision deals a blow to German football clubs which had been hoping to invite supporters back to their games this autumn.
German authorities also plan to tighten rules on smaller gatherings by limiting private parties to 25 people.
The draft strongly encourages citizens “to limit the number of people they come into contact with”, to keep a distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) whenever possible and to opt for outdoor gatherings over indoor ones.
Although Germany has weathered the pandemic well so far, the recent rise in coronavirus cases “must be taken very seriously”, it reads.
“The goal of the federal government and the states is to work together to reduce the infection numbers as much as possible.”
As in other countries, the upsurge of the past weeks has been mainly blamed on summer travel and private gatherings.
Germany earlier this month introduced free mandatory tests for travellers returning from high-risk areas and free voluntary tests for those coming back from elsewhere.
But following criticism that German labs were becoming overburdened, the draft document says it will scrap the free tests for those returning from non-risk areas from September 15.
Authorities also plan to step up controls to ensure people adhere to quarantine rules.
Germany on Thursday reported 1,507 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 237,936, according to the Robert Koch disease control institute.
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