Germany’s government announced it will extend the country’s national lockdown – which was in place until Jan. 10 – until the end of the month. It will also further tighten restrictions on movement and contact in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“We will have to harden measures,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists following a meeting with Germany’s 16 regional leaders in Berlin. She warned that hospitals across the country are already overwhelmed, particularly in intensive care units.
Under the new measures, all non-essential stores, restaurants, schools and nurseries will be required to remain shut until Jan. 31. Citizens will only be permitted to meet with one other person outside of their own household, as opposed to gatherings of up to five people from two separate households.
“We need to restrict contact more strictly…we ask all citizens to restrict contact to the absolute minimum,” Merkel added.
Tougher measures will also be introduced in towns and districts where the number of new coronavirus cases exceeds 200 per 100,000 residents over seven days, with a limit on non-essential travel of up to 15km (9.3 miles), Merkel announced.
She also confirmed that travelers returning to Germany from high-risk countries will now have to test twice for coronavirus, with travelers required to quarantine for five days upon return, even if their first coronavirus test result is negative.
Addressing the spread of the more transmissible variant first identified in the UK, Merkel said it is a “race against time” for Germany.
Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder also warned that “the mutating virus is spreading faster and likely to become more prevalent,” adding that the lockdown would have to be extended as a result of this “new threat.”
Chancellor Merkel reiterated that the coronavirus vaccine gives “hope to return to normal life,” asserting that – despite criticism — Germany was right to back the European Commission’s decision to procure vaccines for all 27 member states.
“We do not want any go-it-alone national approach in securing vaccines,” Merkel said.
According to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Tuesday, 316,962 people in Germany have now been vaccinated – around 0.4% of the country’s population.
A total of 11,897 new cases new cases of coronavirus and 944 additional deaths were recorded in Germany as of Tuesday, the RKI added.