Germany extends coronavirus lockdown until 31 January

The decision came as new coronavirus cases and deaths are running at stubbornly high levels

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Tuesday that she has agreed with state governors to extend the country’s current lockdown by three weeks until 31 January.

Merkel said they also are tightening curbs on social contacts, in line with measures imposed at the beginning of the pandemic in March. And they called for new restrictions on movement for people living in areas with particularly high infection rates.

The decision came as new coronavirus cases and deaths are running at stubbornly high levels, and officials remain uncertain what effect the Christmas and New Year holidays have had on the situation.

Germany launched a nationwide partial shutdown on 2 November, closing restaurants, bars, leisure and sports facilities. That failed to reduce infection figures, and the current lockdown, which closed nonessential shops and schools, and further limited social contacts, took effect on 16 December. It was initially due to run through 10 January. Germany's disease control centre on Tuesday reported 944 more COVID-19 deaths.

In a nation of 83 million, nearly 265,000 vaccinations had been reported by Monday, the Robert Koch Institute said. Opposition politicians and even some within Germany's governing coalition have criticized the EU’s cautious advance ordering of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only one so far cleared for use in EU nations. The country's Health minister Jens Spahn has repeatedly said that the vaccinations are progressing as expected and that the slow start is because mobile teams are first going to nursing homes to vaccinate the most vulnerable, which takes more time than inviting people to mass vaccination centers.

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