Coronavirus: Germany bans large gatherings till end of the year and tightens controls

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the media in Berlin on August 27, 2020 - Copyright Michele Tantussi/Pool Photo via AP

German football stadiums will most likely remain empty for the initial part of the season as Chancellor Angela Merkel extended a ban on large gatherings until December 31.

It comes after Merkel met with her 16 state governors on Thursday to discuss how to stem coronavirus infections in the country after daily infection rates spiked to the highest levels since the end of April.

Sport was not the main focus of the talks, but it is covered by the decision to extend the ban on events where hygiene and tracing can’t be ensured.

That ban was initially set to run until October 31 but was extended for another two months.

The state governors’ chiefs of staff will, however, form a working group to consider the possibility of spectators at events and report their findings by the end of October.

Bavarian governor Markus Söder agreed with health minister Jens Spahn’s assertion that it would send the “wrong signal” to allow fans to go to the games.

Under an agreement between regions and the German government, authorities will also increase fines to €50 for not wearing masks in closed public spaces and public transport, as well as strengthen controls to ensure that self-confident measures are maintained.

The spread of the virus in the country is "currently still significantly lower than the peak reached in March and April", the government stressed, but recognised that "in recent weeks the number of infections has increased again" and the government is worried about holidaymakers importing the virus from abroad.

"A lot of mobility has been possible during the summer, but we must now be vigilant," Chancellor Angela Merkel warned at the press conference, advising Germans not to visit areas classified as "high risk" by the country's Robert Koch Institute, which include Spain, Brussels and Paris.

Germany has reported more than 240,000 cases of coronavirus, with over 9,200 related deaths.
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