Germany has ordered new restrictions to contain a second wave of the coronavirus, but stopped far short of the sort of measures seen in the UK.
Angela Merkel and regional leaders agreed not to impose a new lockdown or a blanket limit on gatherings like the UK’s “rule of six”.
Instead public gatherings will be limited to 25, but only in areas where the rate of infection rises over government safety limits.
And even in the worst affected areas, there will be no legal limit on how many people can meet in private homes.
“The rising number of coronavirus infections is a cause for concern,” Angela Merkel told a press conference. “We want to act in a regionally specific, targeted manner. Another lockdown must be prevented at all costs.
“Our priority is to protect the economy and keep schools open for children. When it comes to everything else, we shall have to see what we can manage.”
Germany recorded its highest daily increase in infections since April on Saturday, with 2,507, but the infection rate remains far lower than in the UK or most other major European countries.
“We got through the summer well, but difficult times lie ahead in the autumn and winter,” Mrs Merkel said. “We can meet this with the right measures. These will only succeed if citizens are willing to follow the rules so that the epidemic does not spread any further.”
The new rules come after it was leaked to the German press that Mrs Merkel was seriously worried at the rising infection rate in Germany and had privately warned party colleagues that the country “could see 19,200 cases a day by Christmas”.
But under Germany’s federal system the chancellor’s power to impose lockdowns and other restrictions is severely limited.
Such measures are under the control of Germany’s 16 federal states, and Tuesday’s measures were only agreed after three hours of video talks between Mrs Merkel and regional leaders.
The new rules amount to a “traffic light system”. In local areas where the weekly infection rate crosses 35 per 100,000 inhabitants, gatherings in pubs, restaurants and other public spaces will be limited to 50 people.
Where it crosses 50 per 100,000 inhabitants or more, such gatherings will be limited to 25 people.
It is thought Mrs Merkel wanted to impose mandatory limits on gatherings in private homes, but she was forced to back down in the face of opposition from regional leaders. Instead limits in private homes will be purely advisory and will not be enforceable.
The leaders discussed imposing restrictions on alcohol sales but agreed they could be decided on a local basis in the worst affected areas.
“More facemasks, less alcohol and smaller parties is the deal,” Markus Söder, the regional leader of Bavaria said.. “Are we spoilsports or philistines? No. But we want caution not recklessness.”
A new minimum fine of €50 (£45) was agreed for anyone providing false contact details to restaurants or pubs.
It is already mandatory for all those visiting pubs and restaurants to provide contact details but there have been frequent reports of people leaving their name as “Mickey Mouse” and “Donald Duck”.
Peter Tschentscher, the mayor of Hamburg, told a press conference that in some of the city’s restaurants as many as half of all the details people gave proved to be false.
Plans for new self-isolation rules for those arriving from risk areas abroad have been postponed until October 15.
Germany avoided the sort of ever-changing quarantine rules that blighted Britons’ summer holidays with mandatory airport testing, but the programme is being phased out because it is taking up too much of the country’s testing capacity.