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Coronavirus digest: German leaders warn lockdown measures to last months

Several German leaders have spoken out against relaxing coronavirus restrictions too early. The Economy Minister warned Germany could face another four to five months of partial lockdown. Follow DW for the latest.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the partial lockdown measures would likely last many more months and warned against easing coronavirus restrictions too early.

"The infection figures are still too high. Much higher than two weeks ago…despite all efforts, a change for the better has not yet been achieved," Altmaier told the paper, adding that he sees "little leeway" for re-opening restaurants and movie theaters.

"We cannot afford a yo-yo shutdown with constant opening and closing of the economy," he said, adding that Germans might have to continue living under coronavirus restrictions beyond December.

"We will have to live with considerable precautions and restrictions for at least the next four to five months."

Watch video 01:49

Germany's 'locklite' signals last call for many bars and restaurants

Altmaier's comments come ahead of a meeting on Monday between Chancellor Angela Merkel, her ministers and state leaders to assess the effectiveness of the country's partial shutdown, which began on November 2.

Two state leaders also expressed their doubts about easing the curbs, including Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder, who told Bild am Sonntag: "There is absolutely no room for relaxing of restrictions. Easing too early risks Christmas. We have to consider whether the measures taken so far are sufficient."

Saxony's state premier Michael Kretschmer told the newspaper: "In my view, there is no basis for relaxation due to the high infection rates."

Read moreCoronavirus: German schools develop 'Plan B' 

Europe

In Germany, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 16,947 to 790,503, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed. The recorded death toll rose by 107 to 12,485.

German authorities are planning to set up hundreds of vaccination centers across the country from December in order to begin the coronavirus inoculation program, according to a report in the newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

The country is s eeking to buy 100 million doses of a vaccine being developed by German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and US partner Pfizer. Researchers say the drug has 90% efficacy.

Germans should put Christmas travel and party plans on hold to help fight against coronavirus, one of the country's top disease expert warned on Sunday.

Bernd Salzberger, the chairman of the German Society for Infectiology, said next month's holiday period could be a "kick-starter" that would see the virus spread in the same way flu has in previous years.

"People travel all over the country, mingling everywhere. They go to the pub to meet their old classmates," the University of Regensburg professor said.

But he warned Germans that they will "not have a normal life in December."

"This cannot and would not be sensible," Salzberger said in an interview.

More than one in five German police officers have had to go into quarantine since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 11,890 out of around 51,000.

There are currently 1,857 police officers in quarantine, whether due to professional or private contacts.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been told to self-isolate after he came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

"He will carry on working from Downing Street, including on leading the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic," said a spokesman for Johnson, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 earlier this year.

The spokesman added that the prime minister was well and had no symptoms of COVID-19.
Some 10 COVID-19 patients have died in Romania after a fire broke out in an intensive care ward in the northern city of Piatra Neamt.

Romania has reported 8,813 coronavirus-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

In Italy, almost half of the population will be in partial confinement on Sunday after the regions of Campania and Tuscany became classified as "red zones."

The Austrian government announced the closure of schools and non-essential stores until December 6 after two weeks of partial lockdown measures failed to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. 

Portugal has implemented a curfew in more than a hundred municipalities, where about 70% of its population of 10 million resides. The curfew begins at 11 p.m. on weekdays and from 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Nearly 500 people protested against the curfew measures on Saturday in central Lisbon.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex warned the country would "live with the virus for a long time," and added that he is considering new rules until a vaccine arrives.  "Festive, family gatherings in party halls will not be able to resume for a long time. Similarly, bars and restaurants, also high-risk transmission areas, will not be able to re-open from December 1," he said.

Watch video 02:39

France's revised pandemic response draws criticism

In more positive news, the number of coronavirus patients in hospital, and in intensive care, in France has dropped for the first time since September. The country has been under a nationwide lockdown for two weeks.

COVID-19 patients still occupy 96% of France's intensive care beds. France has reported more coronavirus infections than any other European country.

Greece has shutdown elementary schools, kindergartens and nurseries until the end of the month. Colleges and high schools have already been closed since Monday. A stay-at-home order was re-introduced on November 7.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that an effective vaccine could be available within the next two months. EMA Director Guido Rasi said the EU body would be able to give the green light to the first vaccine by the end of the year and start distribution from January. 

Middle East 

Lebanon has begun a new "total" home confinement measure which is set to last two weeks. The government imposed the stay-at-home order in a bid to fight soaring levels of coronavirus infections that have overburdened the country's hospitals. 

Iran has reached another record high of new daily cases, reporting 12,543 infections in the past 24 hours. The country has seen cases soar with a total of 762,068 officially recognized infections since the outbreak began.

The Health Ministry also reported on Sunday that 459 people had died.

Americas

Mexico has surpassed 1 million coronavirus infections and registered 98,259 test-confirmed deaths. Health officials have previously said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher than the reported figures.

Brazil has recorded 921 coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the national death toll to 165,658. Brazil now has more than 5.8 million infections, according to the Health Ministry. 

ab,mvb/sms (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)

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