New Delhi (NVI): German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers have agreed to extend a lockdown for most shops and schools until February 14 as part of a package of steps to combat the surge in coronavirus cases.
Furthermore, medical masks were made mandatory rather than simple cotton ones, on public transportation and in stores.
The existing lockdown runs until January 31.
Schools and daycare centres, non-essential shops, restaurants, leisure and sporting facilities will remain closed.
“Now is the time to take preventive measures against the threat of this virus,” Merkel said at a media briefing after a meeting with the premiers of Germany’s 16 federal states.
New infections have been decreasing in recent days and pressure on intensive care units has eased slightly, but virologists are worried about the possible spread of more infectious variants of the virus.
Merkel said all countries in Europe must make similar efforts to fight the pandemic. Otherwise, Germany may consider restricting border entry to avoid highly transmissible strains being brought in from abroad.
In addition to this, she and the state leaders also agreed that companies must allow employees to work from home until March 15 where possible.
Aid for hard-hit companies is to be improved, and retailers’ writedowns on seasonal goods – which could include winter coats or ski equipment – will be taken into account.
Germany closed restaurants, leisure and sporting facilities in November, then expanded the shutdown in mid-December to include schools and most shops to halt runaway growth in new coronavirus infections.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen by 11,369 to 2.05 million, data from the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases showed. The death toll was up by 989 to 47,622.