Germany is to shut schools and shops as part of a strict new lockdown from Wednesday after recording an “exponential growth” in coronavirus infections.
Chancellor Angela Merkel made the announcement in Berlin yesterday after a consultation with state leaders, saying: “We are forced to act, and we are acting now.”
From Wednesday, private gatherings will be restricted to five people from a maximum of two households. From December 24-26, the two-household restriction will be lifted, but meetings are limited to “the closest family circles”, Berlin’s Tagesspiegel reports.
Ms Merkel conceded that Germany’s “lockdown light”, which began in November, had “not done enough” to curb infection rates. She had hoped the measures – including the closure of bars and restaurants and a restriction on private gatherings – would stop the spread of the virus.
Ms Merkel said she understood the concerns of the public in the lead-up to Christmas, but said: “There is an urgent need to take action to prevent an overload of our healthcare systems.”
Markus Soder, the leader of Bavaria, which has been among the hardest hit by the virus, said the measures were urgently needed.
Germany will put in place a strict nationwide gathering and assembly ban on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, plus a ban on the sale of fireworks.
All stores will be required to close from Wednesday until January 10, with the exception of pharmacies, supermarkets, post offices, banks and petrol stations. Hairdressers and massage services, schools, nurseries and day care centres will also close. Churches may remain open, but singing is banned and mask and distance requirements will be enforced.
German states are free to impose stricter measures depending on infection rates, with Bavaria putting in place a curfew from 9pm to 5am.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute reported 20,200 new cases yesterday, up from 17,700 the previous Sunday. Some 496 Covid deaths were recorded yesterday, with Friday’s 598 deaths a record since the pandemic began.
The lockdown decision comes as Germany has promised to beef up police and security protection of the country’s vaccination infrastructure. Georg Maier, the chairman of Germany’s state interior minister committee, has said more must be done to guard against a radicalised and “violent” anti-vaccine movement.
State officials in Berlin have already promised to guard the city’s vaccination centres with security forces, while authorities said vaccine doses would be stored in secret locations. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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