BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany on Saturday urged people returning from Italy, Switzerland and Austria to self-isolate for up to two weeks to help slow the spread of coronavirus, as Cologne closed all bars, nightclubs and cinemas.
“Especially travelers and skiers returning from Switzerland, Italy and Austria should stay at home as far as possible for up to two weeks, even without symptoms,” Health Minister Jens Spahn tweeted.
As of Friday, there were 3,062 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany, with five deaths, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said.
Cologne, in western Germany, which has a population of more than 1 million people, said it was closing nightclubs, bars, theaters, cinemas and amusement arcades with immediate effect until April 10. Church and religious services are also banned. Restaurants and pubs that serve food could remain open.
Clubs and bars in Berlin would also close on Saturday, the Tagesspiegel newspaper reported. Germany’s highly devolved system means it is up to regional governments to decide on closures.
Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the military could be deployed to keep supermarkets supplied and open if, for example, there was a shortage of truck drivers.
“Of course we are also discussing the possibility of deploying the Bundeswehr in the worst-case scenario,” Scheuer said.
In Saarland, all swimming pools, children’s indoor halls, discos, bars, dancehalls, clubs, swimming pools and brothels have been closed.
“Everything possible must be done to prevent a further spread and thus an increase in the number of confirmed cases,” said Stephan Kolling, head of the tiny western state’s crisis team.
The eastern state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern joined other German states on Saturday saying it would close all schools from Monday until April 20.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged people to reduce social contact, for example by children not visiting their grandparents.
“Everyone can contribute with his or her personal behavior … so that the speed at which people become infected slows down so that our health care system is not overburdened,” she said in her weekly podcast.
Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Catherine Evans and Mike Harrison