Germany plunged into Christmas lockdown until January

Germany will be placed under a nationwide lockdown over Christmas and new year following a surge of Covid-19 cases in the country.

From Wednesday, all non-essential shops, hair salons and schools will close until January 10 as part of a raft of measures to bring the virus under control, confirmed Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ms Merkel said she and all 16 regional leaders agreed to tighten restrictions in a bid to half the ‘exponential growth’ in new coronavirus infections sweeping across the country.

The chancellor told reporters in Berlin: ‘We are forced to act, and we’re acting too.’

The document setting out the new rules read: ‘With increasing mobility and the therefore linked additional contacts in the pre-Christmas period, Germany is now in exponential growth of infections numbers.’

‘It was therefore our task to prevent an overload of our health systems and that’s why there is an urgent need to take action,’ added Ms Merkel.

The country recorded 20,200 new cases and 321 more deaths on Sunday – a high figure for the weekend when many local authorities do not report figures.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Germany has risen over the past two weeks from 21.23 new cases per 100,000 people on November 28, to 26 new cases per 100,000 people on December 12.

Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder described the situation as ‘out of control’ and said the measures were necessary to prevent further deaths, adding: ‘We need to be careful that Germany doesn’t become the problem child of Europe.’

Under the rules, restaurant takeaways will continue to be permitted but consumption on site – including of alcoholic beverages – will be banned.

Meanwhile, companies are also being urged to allow employees to work from home or offer them extended annual leave.

The number of people allowed to meet indoors will remain restricted to five, not including children under 14, with the exception of Christmas.

Alcohol sales will be banned in public places, essentially outlawing the festive business of mulled wine stands, which have proved popular in the days running up to Christmas.

The sale of fireworks will also be banned along with public outdoor gatherings on New Year’s Eve.

Ms Merkel said she was forced to take urgent action as current restrictions have failed to significantly reduce the number of new infections.

In November, Germany closed leisure and cultural facilities and banned indoor dining in restaurants.

The measures had helped to halt rapid growth of infections after the autumn school holidays, but numbers had plateaued at a high rate.

Over the last week however, the country’s disease control agency reported that the infections trend has taken a worrying turn.

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