Gabriel Felbermayr, president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany, is calling for more freedom in the country as the lockdown imposed to stem the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic keeps bankrupting businesses.
Since November last year, Germany has been under a strict lockdown that requires shops, hotels and restaurants across the nation to close temporarily. The measure has been tough on businesses, prompting Felbermayr to seek a change of approach.
“What we need are new ways of containing the pandemic. It’s not a question of opening up, it’s a question of allowing more freedom,” Felbermayr told DW. “I think businesses are ready to implement the things that they have prepared over many months. We should try and be confident that companies are able to deal with the [challenges].”
The Chandjian carpet store, one of the oldest carpet shops in Germany, is among the many businesses crippled by the lockdown. The store has been operating for seven decades but will have to close for good. Owner Isabella Chandjian bemoans the closure of the business that her father founded.
“What my father founded in 1950 is now coming to an abrupt end,” she told German newspaper Abendzeitung. “We were almost all over the world. Now it ends, our long beautiful story.”
Germany keeps extending lockdown to curb infections – to no avail
Germany has been under a strict lockdown for months but never seems to be able to lower the number of new infections despite it. Last November, Chancellor Angela Merkel placed the nation in a month-long light lockdown due to a rise in ICU admissions and new COVID-19 cases.
The lockdown was a milder version of the measures that halted German economic activity earlier in spring. It prohibited restaurants, bars, entertainment facilities and public recreation centers from operating. It also banned large events and overnight stays in hotels for tourist purposes.
While Germans welcomed the spring order, the public’s mood had since shifted. Compared to the start of October, the number of those who said the measures went too far increased by four percent, DW reported. Meanwhile, the number of those who perceived the current measures were sufficient plunged by eight percent.
Much of the criticism highlighted the restrictions’ impact on the economy. Many Berlin restaurant owners, who could only accept takeout orders under Merkel’s order, said that they would probably have to close permanently if faced with another lockdown. They said they already suffered big losses after the spring closure. (Related: Germany keeps lockdown in place even as the government receives intense criticism from business organizations.)
But the restrictions did not succeed in bringing down the number of new daily infections, prompting the government to order a harder lockdown a month later. The new order closed nonessential shops and schools, which were previously allowed to operate at some capacity under the November shutdown.
The lockdown was initially planned to end on Jan. 10 but was extended until the end of that month. The extension was accompanied with tighter restrictions on social contacts, which prohibited meeting more than one person from another household. The new restrictions also barred Germans from traveling more than nine miles from their hometown for a week unless they had a good reason to go.
The lockdown was extended several more times, with the latest extension pushing the nationwide closure until at least April 18. Last month, nearly 20,000 Germansmarched through the streets of Kassel in protest of the lockdown.
Alternative for Germany, the largest opposition party in the German federal parliament, had been critical of further restrictions from the get go. It said that a lockdown would not solve the pandemic.
“No measures, including lockdowns, have had a demonstrable influence on the infection rate, but the lockdown fantasies of government politicians are becoming increasingly absurd,” party leader Alexander Gauland said following the announcement of the November lockdown last year.
Learn more about the impact of the coronavirus lockdown and other restrictions on the economy at Pandemic.news.
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