Shops selling non-essential goods, hair-salons and schools in Germany will close from Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, to halt an “exponential growth” in new coronavirus infections in Europe’s biggest economy.
The partial lockdown will apply until January 10, with companies also urged to allow employees to work from home or offer extended company holidays, under the new measures agreed by Merkel with regional leaders of Germany’s 16 states.
– ‘Last Christmas?’ –
Germany has imposed far less stringent shutdown rules than other major European nations after coming through the first wave of the pandemic relatively unscathed.
But Europe’s biggest economy has been severely hit by a second wave with daily new infections more than three times that of the peak in the spring.
Germany recorded another 20,200 new Covid cases over the past 24 hours, reaching a total of 1,320,716 cases, according to RKI data published Sunday.
Another 321 patients died from the disease from a day earlier, bringing the total death toll to 21,787.
In a hard-hitting speech before the Bundestag on Wednesday, Merkel issued a stark warning to Germans ahead of the Christmas holiday season when families are expected to gather.
“If we have too many contacts before Christmas and it ends up being the last Christmas with the grandparents, then we’d really have failed,” she said.
Merkel’s government has repeatedly said that numbers need to be brought down to 50 per 100,000 people but the rate is currently 169.1 per 100,000.
Ahead of the talks, Germany’s hardest hit states have already ordered new measures.
Saxony state, where in some areas incidence rates have hit 500 per 100,000, will keep shops and schools shut from Monday.
A curfew will also kick in from 10pm to 6am.