Germany mulls tighter shutdown as Covid-19 virus variants fuel fears

Germany mulls tighter shutdown as Covid-19 virus variants fuel fears

Following a meeting with the country's 16 state premiers, Germany has made a decision to extend a strict nationwide lockdown until February 14 as a "precaution" for the health of the citizens, the country, and the economy, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

Employers were also encouraged to allow employees work from home, wherever it's possible.

They also agreed to mandate medical masks, rather than simple cotton ones, on public transportation and in stores.

Germany has closed schools, non-essential shops, bars, restaurants, and leisure and cultural facilities under a lockdown that has been incrementally tightened since early November. The leaders agreed to prolong the lockdown until February 14.

Tuesday's talks between Merkel and state premiers were brought forward by a week because of concerns over virus variants recently discovered in South Africa and Britain.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced new measures aimed at preventing the spread of mutated forms of the coronavirus. "We are doing this as a precautionary measure for the sake of citizens' health, as well as for the sake of the economy and labor market", Merkel said.

"It's not a question of establishing generalised border controls - we will try to avoid that", she said, adding that she had already begun discussions on the issue with the Czech Republic.

New infections have soared far above the 50 per 100,000 people threshold set by the government. And just last Thursday, the country saw a new high in daily deaths, at 1,244.

Germany is extending its current national lockdown until mid-February and introducing new, tougher measures as the country's death toll continues to rise.

Elderly people are inoculated against the coronavirus disease on the opening day of a vaccination centre at the Messe Berlin trade fair grounds in Berlin, Germany January 18, 2021.

Seibert noted on Monday that the incidence rate was still at over 130 per 100,000 people, and that Germany "must more quickly" bring that down to 50.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose 11,369 to 2.05 million, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.

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