Merkel: 'Lockdown light' to stretch into January
Germany federal and state governments have agreed to extend the country's current partial lockdown until January 10, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday.
Merkel will hold talks with Germany's 16 state leaders again on January 4 to reassess the situation.
"Generally, things will remain as they are now," Merkel said.
When the December lockdown measures were initially announced, regional leaders and Merkel had made clear that the restrictions would likely apply well into January. However they only formally set them in stone until December 20, when a brief mini-amnesty period is currently planned to span the Christmas period.
What did the leaders say?
Merkel said that Germany was still "very far away" from the infection figures that the government would like to see, noting that the country registered its highest number of daily virus deaths on Wednesday, with over 480 virus fatalities over the past 24 hours.
Looking to vaccine approvals, Merkel said that some 70 million doses of both the BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines can be delivered in Germany at the beginning of 2021 if the shots are given authorization. She emphasized that the doses will not be enough to cover Germany's 80-million population and that the country needs to "get through winter."
Stricter measures could be on the horizon if the situation does not improve, said Bavaria state premier Markus Söder.
"The question is whether we can keep this country in this type of half-sleep all the time — or whether we will have to again consider taking a very clear and stricter approach in some areas," Söder said, adding that it would perhaps be better to be "stricter for a shorter time than semi-consistent for a longer time."
What are Germany's current restrictions?
Since November, restaurants and bars across the country have been closed, except for takeaway. Entertainment facilities such as theaters and cinemas have been closed, as well as fitness studios and swimming pools.
Schools have remained open, although mandatory mask requirements have been extended. Religious services and protests have been allowed to take place due to constitutional concerns.
At the end of November, the German government and state leaders extended the measures, issuing new rules limiting private gatherings. Private meet-ups are currently limited to five people from two households, with children aged 14 exempted from the count.
Certain exceptions have been made for the Christmas holidays to allow for families to celebrate, albeit in reduced numbers. The so-called Christmas amnesty will relax the rules slightly between December 23 to January 1 — private gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed regardless of the number of households.
rs/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)