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Angela Merkel and Germany's 16 state premiers decided to keep the lockdown in place until at least mid-February. The new, tougher measures would also see people wearing medical masks in shops and on public transport.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of the country's 16 states on Tuesday agreed to keep the lockdown in place and introduce tougher measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
The lockdown, previously set to expire at the end of January, has now been prolonged until February 14. Most shops, schools and non-essential business, such as gyms and sports centers, will remain closed. The new measures include stricter rules on the types of masks that must be worn in certain public places, and a greater onus on employers to allow working from home.
Although new infections have been decreasing in recent days and the pressure on intensive care units has eased slightly, virologists are worried that more infectious variants, such as the ones identified in the UK and South Africa might spread in the EU country.
"Now is the time to take preventive measures against the threat of this virus," Merkel told reporters after a meeting with the state premiers.
"It's tough what we have to put people through again, but the precautionary principle is our priority, and we have to take it into account now, and we have taken it into account today," she added.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel urged EU nations to coordinate in order to stop the spread of new mutations of the coronavirus, warning that border checks may have to be installed otherwise.
"If countries should decide to take different paths... you have to be ready to say then, we'll have to reintroduce border controls. We don't want that, we want to find an agreement with our partners, but we can't have that (infections) just coming because other countries are taking another path," she said.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by 11,369 to 2.05 million in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported on Tuesday. The number of deaths was up 989 at 47,622 across the country.
A previous version of this article stated that filter masks, rather then medical masks, would be mandatory in German shops and on public transport. In fact, simple surgical masks are also considered acceptable. The DW apologizes for the error.