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Coronavirus: Merkel urges tougher curbs — reports

January 15, 2021

Germans could be facing tougher restrictions soon, following comments by Chancellor Angela Merkel to politicians. There is already a lockdown, but it's not having much impact, official statistics seem to show.

Angela Merkel puts on a white medical face mask
Merkel is said to have told senior politicians in her party that tougher restrictions were needed to stop the coronavirus spreading furtherImage: Michael Kappeler/REUTERS

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants "very fast action" to counter the spread of coronavirus in Germany, she told a meeting of senior officials from her party on Thursday, according to reports.

A meeting with 16 state premiers to review pandemic restrictions will be brought forward "to the coming week," Merkel is said to have told participants.

It could take place as early as Monday or Tuesday, the German press agency said. It was previously scheduled for January 25.

Only "significant additional measures" can stop the virus, senior members of Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union Party quoted their leader as saying.

Germany fared better than many countries during the first wave of the pandemic but has been hit hard in recent months.

Nationwide curbs introduced in November 2020 and tightened in December appear to have had little impact on stemming the virus spread.

The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases counted 1,200 COVID-19 deaths over the past 24 hours – a new record for the country.

Participants said Merkel was also concerned about the mutated, highly-contagious virus variant that recently emerged in Britain.

Germany has reported 16 cases of this variant.

Total shutdown for Germany?

What new restrictions might Germany face?

German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel reported that there could be:

  • Border checks
  • Mandatory wearing medical-quality FFP2 masks in certain places
  • More working from home

Mass-selling daily newspaper Bild reported that Merkel wanted to shut down public transport services.

Participants at another meeting contradicted that and reported her as saying: "We have to relieve the pressure on public transport by doing more home offices and thus reducing contacts," according to news agency Reuters.

This would bein addition to current measuresthat include closures of non-essential shops, gastronomy businesses and schools.

Private meet-ups are already limited to one other person from a separate household.

Regional travel bans come into force when the seven-day incidence crosses 200 cases per 100,000 people.

Robert Koch Institute agrees with Merkel

Earlier on Thursday, the head of the RKI, Lothar Wieler, asked people to follow the current lockdown rules in Germany amid the spike in deaths and discovery of the new COVID-19 variant.

The institution expressed support for further restrictions.

Wieler also urged people in Germany to refrain from nonessential travel.

kmm/aw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)