Speaking early Tuesday morning after a lengthy video call with the country’s 16 state governors, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the restrictions that were previously in effect through March 28 will now remain in effect until April 18.
Coronavirus infections have risen steadily in Germany as the most contagious variant first detected in Britain has become dominant, and the country’s daily per capita number of cases has surpassed that of the United States.
“We basically have a new pandemic,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
“Essentially we have a new virus, obviously of the same type but with completely different characteristics,” he added. “Significantly more deadly, significantly more infectious (and) infectious for longer.”
Since their last meeting three weeks ago, in which the two sides agreed to a multi-step plan to relax restrictions, several states have tried to avoid reverting to stricter lockdowns when the weekly number of new infections exceeds 100 per 100,000 residents. on three consecutive days. .
Merkel made it clear that she would not accept it.
“Unfortunately, we will have to use this emergency brake,” he said.
The weekly infection rate per 100,000 people stood at 107 nationwide on Monday, up from the mid-60s three weeks ago.
Officials agreed to largely shut down public life from April 1-3, add a public holiday, and close most stores during the period. Public gatherings will be banned from April 1-5 to encourage people to stay home.
Amid concerns about the rise in Germans traveling abroad on vacation, authorities also agreed on a blanket requirement for air travelers to be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a flight to Germany.
Drafting legally tight rules has proven to be a headache at times. A court in Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, said on Monday that it repealed rules that require people to get appointments to visit stores. He said they violated the requirement that companies receive equal treatment.
The state government quickly reinstated the rules, tightening them for some businesses, such as bookstores and garden centers, that were previously exempt.
Under Tuesday’s agreement, authorities will aim to offer free tests to all students and teachers in German schools, many of which have recently reopened after months of remote teaching.
Merkel said Germany, which had relatively few deaths during the first phase of the pandemic last spring, has seen “successes but also setbacks” and insisted the situation will improve as more people get vaccinated.
So far, Germany’s vaccination campaign has lagged behind expectations, with only around 9% of the population receiving at least a first injection and 4% receiving both doses on Sunday.
“It’s difficult for longer than we think,” Merkel said. “But there is definitely visible light at the end of the tunnel.”
When asked about the EU’s plans to restrict the export of vaccines and components, Merkel said she supported the efforts of the bloc’s Executive Commission to ensure contracts are honored, citing supply problems the EU has had with. your AstraZeneca injection.
Britain, which left the EU last year, has vigorously protested the plans, fearing deliveries will be cut off.
Merkel said she and French President Emmanuel Macron had each spoken with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the issue in recent days and that EU leaders would aim to reach a decision “responsibly” at a virtual summit on Thursday.
AP journalist Geir Moulson contributed to this report.
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