German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of the country’s 16 states on Tuesday agreed to keep the lockdown in place and introduce tougher measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The lockdown, previously set to expire at the end of January, has now been prolonged until February 14. Most shops, schools and non-essential business, such as gyms and sports centers, will remain closed, The new measures include stricter rules on the types of masks that must be worn in certain public places, and a greater onus on employers to allow working from home.
Although new infections have been decreasing in recent days and the pressure on intensive care units has eased slightly, virologists are worried that more infectious variants, such as the ones identified in the UK and South Africa might spread in the EU country.
“Now is the time to take preventive measures against the threat of this virus,” Merkel told reporters after a meeting with the state premiers.
“It’s tough what we have to put people through again, but the precautionary principle is our priority, and we have to take it into account now, and we have taken it into account today,” she added.
What are the new rules? People in shops and on public transport will be required to wear filter masks such as FFP2 respirators, which also protect the wearer. Employers must, wherever possible, allow employees to work from home until March 15. What are the current rules? All nonessential shops and services remain closed. Day care centers are closed, but parents can take paid holidays in order to look after their children. Employers are encouraged to allow employees to work from home. People are not allowed to drink alcohol in public. Religious events in churches, synagogues and mosques may take place if they follow hygiene rules, but communal singing is not allowed. Contact at private meetings is restricted to just one other person not living in the same household. Schools are largely closed and students are taught through distance learning.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel urged EU nations to coordinate in order to stop the spread of new mutations of the coronavirus, warning that border checks may have to be installed otherwise.
“If countries should decide to take different paths… you have to be ready to say then, we’ll have to reintroduce border controls. We don’t want that, we want to find an agreement with our partners, but we can’t have that (infections) just coming because other countries are taking another path,” she said.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by 11,369 to 2.05 million in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported on Tuesday. The number of deaths was up 989 at 47,622 across the country.