Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans on Saturday to stick to more stringent COVID-19 restrictions imposed in areas with high infection rates over the weekend, noting that the step was needed to break a third wave of infections.
Earlier this week, both chambers of parliament approved the amendments to the Infection Protection Act to give the federal government more powers to fight the third wave in the pandemic.
Merkel drew up the law after some of the 16 federal states refused to implement stricter measures despite a spike in coronavirus cases and in defiance of a lockdown agreement reached in March.
“This is something new in our fight against the pandemic. And I am convinced that it’s urgently needed,” Merkel said in her weekly video podcast.
“It serves the goal of first slowing down the third wave of the pandemic, then stopping it and finally reversing it,” she added.
Like many other European countries, Germany is struggling to contain an aggressive third wave of infections, with efforts being complicated by the more contagious B117 variant, which first emerged in the UK, and a relatively slow vaccination start.
To stop the spread of other variants, Germany has classified India as a new COVID-19″high incidence area” given the number of cases there, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Friday.
People returning to Germany from high incidence areas must register with the authorities before travelling and then quarantine for 14 days on their return.
“In order not to endanger our vaccination campaign, travel to India must be significantly restricted,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told Funke media group.
From Monday, German nationals coming from India will only be allowed to enter the country with a negative test result and then go into quarantine while foreign travelers coming from India will no longer be allowed to enter, Spahn added.
If the number of infections goes down in the coming weeks, systematic testing will help to enable a controlled and sustainable loosening of restrictions, Merkel promised.