Germany is set to extend its nationwide lockdown until the end of the month and introduce new tougher restrictions in a bid to get control of surging coronavirus infections, sources said on Tuesday.
The new rules, which are currently being discussed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states, will for the first time ban non-essential travel for residents of hard-hit areas all over Germany.
In towns and districts where the number of new coronavirus cases is above 200 per 100,000 residents over seven days, travel will be limited to a 15-kilometre (9.3 miles) radius, the sources said.
Also, members of any one household will be allowed to meet only one other person in public, one of the sources said. That compares with a current rule under which public gatherings are limited to five people from two households.
Like many other European countries, Germany is struggling to contain a second wave of the virus. Britain began its third COVID-19 lockdown on Tuesday with citizens under orders to stay at home.
Concern is growing that hospitals in Germany will struggle to cope.
“The coronavirus situation is very serious. We must remain tough and should not stop too soon,” Markus Soeder, premier of the southern state of Bavaria tweeted before the talks.
Merkel and state premiers are largely agreed on keeping shops and restaurants shut until the end of January, sources involved in the talks have said. Schools are also to remain closed, with classes to be held online, until at least the end of the month.
Merkel is expected to announce the new measures in a news conference later on Tuesday.
Germany imposed a partial lockdown in November but was forced to close schools, shops and restaurants in mid-December after the initial steps failed to make the desired impact.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany was up by 11,897 to 1.787 million in the last day, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Tuesday. The death toll rose by 944 to 35,518.
Germany is rolling out a vaccine against COVID-19 but the media and some officials have criticised the government for a slow start and for ordering too few doses. By Monday, around 266,000 people had received a shot.