Most stores shut, tight limits on social contacts, no singing in church and a ban on fireworks sales: Germany is ratcheting up its pandemic restrictions in an effort to cut the stubbornly high rate of coronavirus infections.
Bavaria’s governor, Markus Soeder, warned that the tightening of the lockdown was necessary because “we need to be careful that Germany doesn’t become the problem child of Europe.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and the governors of Germany’s 16 states had agreed on Sunday to step up the country’s lockdown measures beginning on Wednesday to January 10 to stop the country’s exponential rise of COVID-19 cases.
“We are forced to act and we’re acting,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, noting that existing restrictions imposed in November had failed to significantly reduce the number of new infections.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Germany has risen over the past two weeks from 21.23 new cases per 100,000 people on November 28 to 26 new cases per 100,000 people on December 12.
Starting on Wednesday, schools nationwide will be closed or switch to home schooling.
Most non-food stores will be shuttered, as will businesses such as hairdressers that have so far been allowed to remain open.
Restaurant take outs will still be permitted, but no eating or drinking can take place on site.
With the exception of Christmas, the number of people allowed to meet indoors will remain restricted to five, not including children under 14.
The sale of fireworks traditionally used to celebrate New Year will also be banned, as will public outdoor gatherings on New Year’s Eve.
Soeder noted that the ban on fireworks followed appeals from hospitals, which said they wouldn’t be able to treat the large number of serious injuries that result every year from mishandled explosives.
Germany has set new records in the number of confirmed cases and deaths in recent weeks. Overall, it has had about 22,000 virus deaths, a toll that is one-third that of Italy and Britain.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the government would provide further financial support for businesses affected by the lockdown. German news agency dpa reported the additional sums amounted to 11.2 billion euros ($A18.0 billion).
Employers will be asked to let staff work from home, where possible, for the next month.
Religious services will be permitted, provided minimum distancing rules are in place and masks are worn, although singing will be banned.