Germany shuts non-essential shops, schools as Covid infections surge unabated
Chancellor Angela Merkel has been holding crisis talks with regional leaders of Germany's 16 states to agree tougher curbs to control the raging coronavirus epidemic. The closures of non-essential shops and all schools have already been agreed.
The drastic measures hitting shops other than those selling essential goods would be imposed from Wednesday until at least 10 January, according to a draft document prepared by Chancellor Angela Merkel's office.
Schools will also be shuttered, sending pupils into homeschooling, while companies are requested to allow employees to work from home during the period.
Alcohol sales will be banned in public places, thus outlawing the business of mulled wine stands, traditionally popular in the days running up to Christmas.
Bavaria state premier Markus Söder, who has been pushing for tougher measures, voiced support for the new restrictions.
Numbers worse than ever
"The numbers are worse than ever, we mustn't allow ourselves to get bogged down by individual measures," he told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Along with Merkel, Soder has for weeks been seeking tougher restrictions, warning that the current round of shutdowns hitting theatres, cinemas, gyms and indoor dining was not sufficiently far-reaching.
But the implementation of the restrictions remains in the hands of individual states, and some regions where infection levels are lower had been resistant to impose tough curbs.
The mood however tipped over in the last week after Germany recorded new daily death tolls reaching close to 600.
Worrying turn of infection trend
The country's disease control agency chief Lothar Wieler warned on Thursday that the infections trend had taken a worrying turn.
"The rise in numbers is worrying," said Robert Koch Institute president Wieler, warning that after leveling out for a few weeks, the number of infections could tip over again into exponential growth.
Germany has imposed far less stringent shutdown rules than other major European nations after coming through the first wave of the pandemic relatively unscathed.
But Europe's biggest economy has been severely hit by a second wave with daily new infections more than three times that of the peak in the spring.
Germany recorded another 20,200 new Covid cases over the past 24 hours, reaching a total of 1,320,716 cases, according to data published Sunday.
Another 321 patients died from the disease, bringing the total death toll to 21,787.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe