Germany extends Covid-19 lockdown measures to 7 MarchEuropost
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government on Wednesday agreed to continue the shutdown put in place to fight the coronavirus pandemic until at least 7 March, news wires reported. Earlier on the day the federal government had pushed for an extension of the current shutdown to 14 March. But several state premiers called for it to end earlier on 7 March.
Merkel told reporters after the crunch talks with state leaders that Covid-19 infections in Germany were coming down after more than three months of tough restrictions. "When we look at this development we can be quite satisfied," she said.
But she called on people in Germany to be patient as fears grow over more contagious virus variants first detected in Britain and South Africa.
The agreement stresses that schools and daycare centres should be "the first to gradually reopen", but that it is for individual states to decide how and when that happens.
After the announcement, Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller said the capital would begin partially reopening schools from 22 February, with other regions expected to follow suit.
Hairdressers will, however, be able to reopen on 1 March, regardless of the lockdown extension, provided they adhere strictly to hygiene regulations.
It also raises the prospect of museums, galleries and some services restarting once the virus incidence rate falls to 35 new cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period.
Previously the government had aimed for an incidence of 50 new infections per 100,000 people in seven days for restrictions to be eased. But this goal appears to have been changed due to fears over the virus variants.
Germany closed restaurants, hotels, culture and leisure centres in November, before adding schools and non-essential shops to the list in December. The measures were later extended to 14 February.
Under the current contact rules which will stay in place, households are allowed to meet with one other person. The government has urged people to reduce contact to the minimum.
A YouGov poll this week showed that just half of Germans wanted current measures to be maintained or tightened, down from 65% in early January.