Merkel to push for lockdown light in crisis talks with local leaders

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to push for a "lockdown light" in crisis talks with regional leaders on Wednesday, as the number of coronavirus cases in the country soars and hospital beds fill up, news wires reported.


The proposed new restrictions would include closing restaurants and bars and putting strict limits on private and public gatherings while keeping schools, daycares and shops open, according to the best-selling Bild daily. "We need quick and decisive steps to break the new wave of infections," Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on the eve of the closely watched meeting between Merkel and the premiers of Germany's 16 states.

Under the country's federal system, individual states have the final say on which restrictions to impose, and some less affected regions are likely to bristle at measures that will inflict more economic pain. The far-left premier of the eastern state of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, has already said he wouldn't back Merkel's proposal for a "lockdown light”.

Germany's tally of new daily cases now regularly crosses the 10,000 mark, with more than 11,400 new infections reported on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control. That is still well below figures seen in neighbouring France, where daily cases have topped 50,000, or Belgium where hospitals are reaching capacity.

But Economy Minister Peter Altmaier warned that Germany was seeing "exponential growth" in case numbers and would probably reach "20,000 new infections per day" by the end of the week.

Two hard-hit districts in Bavaria have already gone back into lockdown, with schools, kindergartens and nurseries closed and people needing a valid reason to leave their homes. Bavarian premier Markus Soeder, whose popularity has soared during the pandemic, said time was running out to counter the upward trend and pleaded for tougher, nationally applicable rules.

Several cities across Germany have already taken the dramatic step of cancelling their Christmas markets this year, including the famous Nuremberg "Christkindlesmarkt" that usually attracts over two million visitors.

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