Germany will enter a strict shutdown for five days over Easter as it fights soaring infection rates fueled by variants in a “new pandemic,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday after marathon talks with regional leaders.
As well as extending existing measures including keeping cultural, leisure and sporting facilities shut through April 18, Merkel and Germany’s 16 state premiers agreed on a tougher shutdown from Thursday next week to April 5.
Almost all shops are to be closed during the five days, and religious services are to be moved online over Easter. Only grocers will be allowed to open on Saturday next week.
“The situation is serious. Case numbers are rising exponentially and intensive care beds are filling up again,” Merkel said.
The British variant has become the dominant strain circulating in Germany, she said, adding that “we are in a new pandemic.”
“Essentially, we have a new virus... It is much deadlier, much more infectious and infectious for much longer,” she said.
Europe’s biggest economy had begun easing restrictions, first reopening schools late last month, before allowing hairdressers and some shops to resume business this month.
However, Berlin and the federal states were forced to row back on relaxations this week as new infection numbers rose exponentially.
On Monday, the national incidence rate reached 107.3 cases per 100,000 people, with more than 7,700 new cases and 50 deaths.
Merkel and regional leaders agreed at the last round of talks that authorities would tighten the screws again if that rate struck 100 over three days.
“It is absolutely right that we are hitting the emergency brake,” Merkel said.
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