Germany will go into a “hard” national lockdown, starting next week and continuing through the Christmas period, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday, after agreeing to stricter measures with state governments to stem a wave of coronavirus cases.
As of next Wednesday, all non-essential shops, services and schools will close until January 10, and Christmas Day gatherings will be reduced from 10 people to only five from two different households.
This week, Merkel made an impassioned plea for Germans to limit their social contacts ahead of the holidays: despite the country’s respected health system and early success in containing the virus, a recent partial lockdown has failed to stop the second-wave surge. Germany reported record daily deaths on Friday, with 598 fatalities tallied in a span of 24 hours.
The new measures take aim at traditional festivities: Christmas church services will be subject to prior registration with no singing allowed, alcohol is to be banned from all public spaces and an annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display will be canceled. Some states are also implementing additional measures, such as Bavaria, which will have a 9 p.m. curfew.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has pledged economic help for all businesses affected by the lockdown.
On Sunday, Germany recorded 20,200 new coronavirus infections – 2,000 more than Sunday last week – according to the Robert Koch Institute, the country’s agency for disease control. The overall infection number stands at 1,320,716. The death toll rose by 321 to 21,787, data showed.
Earlier in the week, the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg said it was introducing a curfew – starting on Saturday and lasting until January 10 – where people will only be allowed to leave the house for work and medical appointments, state premier Winfried Kretschmann said in a press briefing.
Meanwhile, in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, the maximum number permitted to meet in public and private spaces has been reduced from ten people to five people from two households, according to state premier President Daniel Günther.
In a cabinet meeting on Friday, it was announced the federal state of Thuringia would close retail stories from December 19 and students would shift to online learning from December 21 as part of the new restrictions, while, earlier this week, it was announced German states of Saxony and Bavaria would move to tougher lockdown measures.
Nadine Schmidt and Zahid Mahmood contributed reporting. Amy Woodyatt wrote from London.