Antigen test Germany covid swab sample
A medical staff takes a swab sample for a rapid antigen test from a man in Tuebingen, southern Germany during the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Image Credit: AFP

Berlin: Germany’s coronavirus infection rate rose at the weekend despite stricter restrictions and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said he did not expect moves to ease curbs before the end of May.

“We need a timetable how to get back to normal life, but it must be a plan that won’t have to be revoked after just a few days,” Scholz said.

The federal government should be able to outline “clear and courageous opening steps” for the summer by the end of May, allowing restaurants to adjust reopening plans and citizens to plan holidays, he said.

Scholz said the steps would also clarify when visits to concerts, theatres and soccer stadiums would be possible.

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged Germans to stick to tougher rules imposed in areas with high infection rates, saying measures imposed at the weekend were needed to break a third wave of infections.

Germany is struggling to contain infections, complicated by the more contagious B117 variant that first emerged in Britain.

It also follows a relatively slow start to Germany’s vaccination campaign.

Tougher measures

Germany’s seven-day average of cases per 100,000 people rose to 166 at the weekend, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said on Sunday.

Parliament approved amendments to the Infection Protection Act last week to give the federal government more powers in the pandemic. Merkel drew up the changes after some of the 16 federal states refused to implement tougher measures.

The new law enables the government to impose curfews between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in districts where cases exceed 100 per 100,000 residents on three consecutive days. The rules also include stricter limits to private gatherings and shopping.

Schools will have to close and return to online lessons if cases reach 165 per 100,000 residents on three consecutive days.