German economy minister wants to get tough on COVID-19 rule breakers




Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has called for tougher penalties for coronavirus rule breakers in view of rising infections in the country.

The minister disclosed this in an interview with dpa on Saturday.

“Anyone who deliberately endangers others must expect that this will have serious consequences for him.

“We must not jeopardize the recovery that is just beginning by accepting a further increase in infections,” he said.

The number of infections reported every day has been on the rise recently, a trend Lothar Wieler, who is Germany’s top official for disease control, described this week as “very worrying.”

Wieler attributed the climb in cases to parts of the general public having become negligent on hygiene and social distancing rules.

On Saturday, the government’s disease control agency reported 955 infections in the past 24 hours. On Friday, the number of new infections registered was 870.

The closely watched R value for the past seven days was 1.19, meaning the virus was continuing to spread.

The vast majority of the population continues to act responsibly, Altmaier told dpa.

“What we are currently experiencing in terms of an increase in risk is essentially due to the careless and sometimes irresponsible misconduct of a very small number of people,” Altmaier said.

“We have to prevent this more effectively than before and act effectively in cases where there are infections and outbreaks: This includes fines and penalties if it is a matter of intent or gross negligence.”

Germany’s 16 states have broad authority in setting coronavirus restrictions, including fines for those who flout them. Rules on maintaining minimum distance and wearing face coverings, for instance, can vary along with the enforcement.

“I strongly advocate that passengers should only be allowed to board buses and trains if they wear a protective mask, or buy one when boarding if they have forgotten their own,” Altmaier said.

“Anyone who travels on buses or trains without a mask is not endangering himself, but others.

”If a party in a cramped basement pub becomes a super-spreading event in violation of all distance and hygiene regulations, this is no trifle and must be punished if necessary,” he added.

In Germany, the total number of people who have died from the coronavirus stands at 9,148.

Since the onset of the crisis, at least 209,653 people in Germany have been confirmed to be infected, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German government’s agency for disease control. 

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