BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany is extending its nationwide lockdown until the end of the month and introducing tougher new restrictions in an effort to curb surging coronavirus infections, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.
“We need to restrict contact more strictly… We ask all citizens to restrict contact to the absolute minimum,” Merkel told reporters after a meeting with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states.
The new rules restrict for the first time non-essential travel for residents of hard-hit areas all over Germany.
They limit movement to a 15-kilometre (nine-mile) radius in towns and districts where the number of new coronavirus cases is above 200 per 100,000 residents over seven days.
Members of any one household will be allowed to meet only one other person in public. That compares with a current rule under which public gatherings are limited to five people from two households.
Like many other European countries, Germany is struggling to contain a second wave of the virus. Britain began its third COVID-19 lockdown on Tuesday with citizens under orders to stay at home.
Concern is growing that hospitals in Germany will struggle to cope, and Merkel said a new mutation of the coronavirus first detected in Britain increased the need to be more cautious.
SHOPS, SCHOOLS TO STAY SHUT
Shops and restaurants will remain shut until the end of January. Schools are also to remain closed, with classes to be held online, until at least the end of the month.
“We believe these measures are justified, even if they are hard,” Merkel said.
The chancellor said she and the state leaders would review the new measures on Jan. 25.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany roseby 11,897 to 1.787 million in the last day, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Tuesday. The death toll rose by 944 to 35,518.
Germany had imposed a partial lockdown in November but was forced to close schools, shops and restaurants in mid-December after the initial steps failed to have the desired impact.
Germany is rolling out a vaccine against COVID-19 but the media and some officials have criticised the government for a slow start and for ordering too few doses. By Tuesday, around 317,000 people had received a shot.
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