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- German chemist and politician; Chancellor of Germany 2005–2021
Germany is set to enter a strict lockdown from Wednesday onwards due to the “exponential growth” in coronavirus cases, with restrictions on private gatherings and the closure of shops and schools.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the announcement in Berlin on Sunday after a consultation with state leaders, saying “we are forced to act and we are acting now”.
"With increasing mobility and additional contacts in the pre-Christmas period, Germany is now in exponential growth of infection numbers," she said.
Mrs Merkel conceded that Germany’s so-called ‘lockdown light’, which began in November, has “not done enough” to curb rising infection rates across the country.
Mrs Merkel had hoped the measures which were put in place in November – including the closure of bars and restaurants as well as a restriction on private gatherings – would stop the spread of the virus, however recent case numbers indicate this has not happened.
Mrs Merkel said she understood the concerns of the public with new measures coming in ahead of Christmas, but that “there is an urgent need to take action to prevent an overload of our healthcare systems”.
Bavarian leader Markus Söder, whose state has been among the hardest hit by the virus, said on Sunday the measures were urgently needed as “coronavirus has gotten out of control” in Germany.
From Wednesday, December 16th, private gatherings will be restricted to five people from a maximum of two households. From December 24th to 26th, the two-household restriction will be lifted, but meetings are limited to “the closest family circles”, Berlin’s Tagesspiegel reports.
Germany will also put in place a strict nationwide gathering and assembly ban on New Years Eve and New Years Day, along with a federal ban on the sale of fireworks. The use of fireworks is to be banned in municipalities across the country.
All shops will be required to close from December 16th until January 10th, with the exception of pharmacies, supermarkets, post offices, banks and petrol stations. Hairdressers and massage services must also close.
Schools, kindergartens and day care centres will also close over the same period.
Churches may remain open, however singing is banned and mask and distance requirements will be enforced.
German states are free to put in place stricter measures depending on infection rates, with Bavaria putting in place a night-time curfew to apply from 9pm to 5am.
Despite entering what has been nicknamed ‘lockdown light’ in early November, new coronavirus case numbers have remained high across Germany – with figures from Sunday morning higher than those from a week ago.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute reported 20,200 new infections on Sunday morning, higher than the 17,700 reported the previous Sunday. A total of 496 deaths from the virus were recorded across Germany on Sunday, with Friday’s mark of 598 fatalities a record since the pandemic began.
The lockdown decision comes as Germany has promised to beef up police and security protection of the country’s vaccination infrastructure due to warnings of radicalised attacks from anti-vaccine campaigners.
Georg Maier (SPD), the chairman of Germany’s state interior minister committee, has said more must be done to protect the country’s vaccine infrastructure from a radicalised and ‘violent’ anti-vaccine movement.
The chairman warned that riots at recent protests showed “that the scene is quite ready and able to use violence”, reports Berlin's Tagesspiegel.
State officials in Berlin have already promised to guard the city’s six vaccination centres with security forces, while authorities on Sunday said vaccine doses would be stored in secret locations and would be transported to the centres under police guard.