Germany extends lockdown until March 7
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will extend restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus until March 7, though schools and hair salons may open sooner, Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of the 16 federal states agreed on Wednesday.
The number of new daily infections in Germany has been falling, prompting some regional leaders to push for a timetable to ease the lockdown, but concerns are growing about the impact of more infectious variants of the virus on case numbers.
“We know that these mutants are a reality now, and with that it (the infection rate) will increase. The question is how quickly it will increase,” Merkel told journalists in a news conference.
Under the agreement, some exceptions will be made to a strict lockdown which has been in place since mid-December.
Hairdressers will be allowed to reopen from March 1 and individual states can decide on how to re-start school classes. Merkel, who has adopted a cautious approach throughout the pandemic, has said nurseries and primary schools take priority.
The rest of the economy can start to re-open gradually where the spread of the virus drops to no more than 35 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days.
On Wednesday, that number was 68, having fallen from a high near 200 in late December. It was last below 50 in October.
Some business and industry associations have pushed for an easing of the restrictions as soon as possible, citing the damage inflicted on Europe’s biggest economy, which shrank by 5% last year.
“The situation is serious,” the BDI industry and BDA employers groups said. “We urgently call for an easing plan.”
However, the Ifo economic think-tank said a lockdown extension until mid-March was bearable and that a swifter easing that triggered a surge in cases could create greater damage.
Germany reported 8,072 new cases on Wednesday and a further 813 deaths, bringing the total death toll to 62,969.
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