Merkel extends Germany’s partial lockdown until Christmas

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Germany will extend its current measures to curb the coronavirus spread until 20 December. Unless there is a dramatic drop in infections, they will likely go through early January, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.

Merkel said the measures introduced in early November, including limits on private gatherings and the closure of restaurants, leisure and cultural facilities, cannot be lifted given current infection rates.

The number of new infections in Germany has plateaued over the past two weeks, with October's exponential growth brought to a halt.

"The steeply rising curve has become a flat one, but this is only a partial success. We can by no means be satisfied," she said.

Germany has registered a total of 961,320 coronavirus cases and 14,771 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre.

The curbs will be continued "until 20 December first but we assume that [...] due to the very high incidence of infection, restrictions will have to apply until the beginning of January," Merkel said.

Main measures against Covid-19:

  • Closures for restaurants, bars, sporting facilities and cultural venues.

  • Schools and shops remain open.

  • Masks on busy areas.

  • From 1 December, private gatherings limited to five people from two households (children exempted).

  • From 23 Dec - 1 Jan, up to 10 people can meet (children under 14 exempted).

‘Staying home’

But this does not mean that parties will be allowed, according to a deal hammered out by Merkel's government and Germany's 16 states, the motto for the period will be to remain at home.

"Employers are urgently requested to check if company holidays or home working solutions can be applied from 23 December to 1 January to allow companies to close, so that nationwide, we can implement the basic principle 'we are staying home'," according to the agreement.

Other measures agreed include trains expanding their seating capacity, in order to better ensure distancing between passengers.

European ski holidays

Germany will also seek a deal with European partners to close ski slopes through to early January, to prevent the virus spreading further.

"I will say this openly that it won't be easy, but we will try," Merkel said.

The measures were agreed after more than seven hours of tense talks, with some less-affected regions calling for lighter restrictions.

(with wires)