German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the partial lockdown measures would likely last many more months and warned against easing coronavirus restrictions too early.

“The infection figures are still too high. Much higher than two weeks ago…despite all efforts, a change for the better has not yet been achieved,” Altmaier told the paper, adding that he sees “little leeway” for re-opening restaurants and movie theaters.

“We cannot afford a yo-yo shutdown with constant opening and closing of the economy,” he said, adding that Germans might have to continue living under coronavirus restrictions beyond December.

“We will have to live with considerable precautions and restrictions for at least the next four to five months.”

Altmaier’s comments come ahead of a meeting on Monday between Chancellor Angela Merkel, her ministers and state leaders to assess the effectiveness of the country’s partial shutdown, which began on November 2.

Two state leaders also expressed their doubts about easing the curbs, including Bavaria’s state premier Markus Söder, who told Bild am Sonntag: “There is absolutely no room for relaxing of restrictions. Easing too early risks Christmas. We have to consider whether the measures taken so far are sufficient.”

Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer told the newspaper: “In my view, there is no basis for relaxation due to the high infection rates.”

Read more: Coronavirus: German schools develop ‘Plan B’ 

Europe

In Germany, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 16,947 to 790,503, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed. The recorded death toll rose by 107 to 12,485.

German authorities are planning to set up hundreds of vaccination centers across the country from December in order to begin the coronavirus inoculation program, according to a report in the newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

The country is seeking to buy 100 million doses of a vaccine being developed by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and US partner Pfizer. Researchers say the drug has 90% efficacy.

In Italy, almost half of the population will be in partial confinement on Sunday after the regions of Campania and Tuscany became classified as “red zones.”

The Austrian government announced the closure of schools and non-essential stores until December 6 after two weeks of partial lockdown measures failed to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. 

Portugal has implemented a curfew in more than a hundred municipalities, where about 70% of its population of 10 million resides. The curfew begins at 11 p.m. on weekdays and from 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Nearly 500 people protested against the curfew measures on Saturday in central Lisbon.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex warned the country would “live with the virus for a long time,” and added that he is considering new rules until a vaccine arrives.  “Festive, family gatherings in party halls will not be able to resume for a long time. Similarly, bars and restaurants, also high-risk transmission areas, will not be able to re-open from December 1,” he said.

Greece has shutdown elementary schools, kindergartens and nurseries until the end of the month. Colleges and high schools have already been closed since Monday. A stay-at-home order was re-introduced on November 7.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that an effective vaccine could be available within the next two months. EMA Director Guido Rasi said the EU body would be able to give the green light to the first vaccine by the end of the year and start distribution from January. 

Middle East 

Lebanon has begun a new “total” home confinement measure which is set to last two weeks. The government imposed the stay-at-home order in a bid to fight soaring levels of coronavirus infections that have overburdened the country’s hospitals. 

Americas

Mexico has surpassed 1 million coronavirus infections and registered 98,259 test-confirmed deaths. Health officials have previously said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher than the reported figures.

Brazil has recorded 921 coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the national death toll to 165,658. Brazil now has more than 5.8 million infections, according to the ministry of health. 

mvb/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)



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