Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing a further tightening of the country’s coronavirus restrictions, setting the stage for another tense round of discussions with the country’s state premiers who favor more lenient measures.
Merkel will hold talks with the 16 regional leaders from 2 p.m. in Berlin, when they’re expected to agree on an extension of the country’s partial shutdown until at least Dec. 20.
In a briefing paper from Merkel’s office obtained by Bloomberg, the federal government proposes a further reduction in the number of customers allowed in shops and tighter measures in schools located in infection hotspots. The proposals go beyond a plan agreed on by regional leaders, raising the stakes for the discussions.
Like the state leaders, Merkel wants the current partial lockdown to stay in place until Dec. 20 and social gatherings to be limited to five people from two households. She also wants to reassess the measures before Christmas and the partial shutdown “is expected to remain necessary into next year,” the briefing paper says.
With infection rates surging, German officials this month ordered the closing of restaurants, gyms and cinemas, while keeping most of the rest of the economy running and schools open. While the measures have helped stabilized the spread, infection rates remain nearly triple the government’s target.
Nations like France and Britain imposed tougher restrictions to try to rein in the disease, and with the latest wave easing officials there are cautiously moving to loosen curbs ahead of the Christmas holidays.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that he will gradually lift a nationwide lockdown from Saturday, while restrictions in the U.K. will be eased over Christmas to allow as many as three households to meet indoors.
German coronavirus cases have tripled since the start of October and are likely to hit 1 million by the end of this week. The number of people with the disease in intensive care is at record levels.
Merkel has said the seven-day incidence per 100,000 citizens needs to come down to around 50 before the latest curbs can be loosened. It was at 139.6 on Wednesday, according to the latest data from the RKI public health institute.-Bloomberg