State Prime Minister Armin Laschet has announced that the entire Guetersloh district – home to more than 360,000 people – will be closed for the next seven days.
Laschet said the new lock would be a mirror of measures introduced nationally earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Group meetings are banned, and schools, day centers, museums, restaurants, pubs, swimming pools, gyms and other public places are forced to close or drastically limit the number of people allowed at any time.
Meetings between members of different households were limited to two people at a time. Shops will remain open, but only with strict hygiene measures in place.
The plant has been closed since last week. All 7,000 local employees and their families were ordered to close, even if they had not tested positive for the virus.
On Tuesday, those restrictions were extended to cover the entire neighborhood. “You have to stay in quarantine,” Laschet said during a news conference on Tuesday, adding that police will conduct a lockout if necessary.
He said that although the epidemic has so far been confined to the factory, public health officials do not know how many people could have come into contact with someone who had been infected in the past few days.
Local public health officials are now racing to curb the epidemic with a large program of tests and clues.
Everyone working in the factory has already been tested, according to the county website. Laschet said 100 mobile testing teams combed through the district to identify anyone who may have become infected.
North Rhine-Westphalia is the densest German state with almost 18 million inhabitants.
In the seven days to Monday, the entire state reported 1,860 new cases of the new coronavirus. These statistics suggest that the outbreak was difficult, but so far has been largely limited to the factory and its workers.
Laschet said on Tuesday that only 24 cases of coronavirus outside the factory have been identified so far.
Germany has so far recorded 192,127 cases and 8,909 deaths related to the new coronavirus – rates that are relatively low compared to other European countries.
The government is credited with acting in the early pandemic and increasing testing capacity in the country. German hospitals could even receive patients from other, more conciliatory, European countries.
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