Germany will review anti-virus curbs in early January, state premier says

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will decide in early January which coronavirus curbs can be lifted, the premier of the state of North-Rhine Westphalia said on Sunday, as he urged people to observe hygiene and distancing rules to help bring case numbers down.

"We have to see at the beginning of January what is possible again and what has to stay closed," the premier of the country's most populous state said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio.

Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with leaders of Germany's 16 federal states to extend and tighten measures against the coronavirus until at least Dec. 20 and they are likely to extend them into January.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Saturday the measures could last into early Spring if infections are not brought under control.

Laschet said restrictions should be eased as soon as possible and if the incidence of infections allow.

"I find it hard to imagine that we will be closing everything for months on end and contributing billions from the federal coffers month after month," he added.

There were 14,611 new confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday, around 1,000 cases fewer than a week ago.

Reported cases are usually lower at the weekend as fewer tests are conducted.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)