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Germany extends partial lockdown until 10 January to curb virus

Bars, gyms and cinemas to remain closed until 10 January & govt will reconvene with regional leaders on 4 January to reassess the restrictions, said Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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Berlin: Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will extend its partial lockdown by three more weeks as the country struggles to regain control of the coronavirus spread.

Bars, gyms and cinemas will remain closed until Jan. 10 and the government will reconvene with regional leaders on Jan. 4 to reassess the restrictions, Merkel said on Wednesday after talks with the premiers of Germany’s 16 states.

Germany’s infection rates are still far too high and need to come down faster, Merkel said in Berlin. “We have to bemoan a very high number of deaths every day, which shows the amount of responsibility that we have,” she said.

Merkel’s administration last week already extended a partial shutdown until Dec. 20 while keeping schools and much of the economy open. This so-called “lockdown light” has yielded little progress in slowing the spread to levels the government has determined as manageable.

Merkel on Wednesday reiterated that the seven-day incidence per 100,000 citizens needs to come down to around 50 — and stay there — before restrictions can be loosened. It was at 134 on Wednesday, according to the latest report from the RKI public health institute.

Bavarian State Premier Markus Soeder said restrictions might be tightened even further in January if the number of new cases doesn’t come down fast enough. “We should not shy away from acting much more consequently,” said the conservative politician, who is seen as a candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor next year.

The German chancellor has said before that the country will likely prolong its partial shutdown into January unless there’s an unexpectedly rapid decline in contagion rates. By contrast, France and Britain, which imposed tougher restrictions, are now cautiously moving to loosen curbs ahead of the Christmas holidays.

The situation is increasing tension over how to protect the economy. Merkel said it can’t continue to reimburse affected businesses for 75% of lost sales next year. The aid is costing Germany at least 15 billion euros ($18.2 billion) a month, and Merkel’s caucus leader Ralph Brinkhaus has attacked the states for not helping with funding.

Merkel said it is unclear if a vaccine for the virus will be available before Christmas, but added that Pfizer Inc., BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. will deliver 7 million doses in the first quarter of 2021.

Governments across the world are hoping for a rapid rollout of such vaccines to bring an end to the pandemic. On Wednesday, Britain’s drug regulator cleared the vaccine for emergency use, ahead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its European Union counterpart.- Bloomberg

Also read: ‘It’s in our hands’ — Angela Merkel urges Germans to help curb Covid spread


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