Germany imposes stricter bans towards COVID-19

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© Reuters. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Frankfurt

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will close most stores from Wednesday until at least January 10th, shortening the busy Christmas shopping season as it tightens restrictions on coronaviruses and tries to contain the spread of the disease, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday.

“I would have liked lighter measures. But because of the Christmas shopping, the number of social contacts has increased significantly,” Merkel told journalists after a meeting with leaders of the country’s 16 federal states.

“There is an urgent need for action,” she said.

From December 16, only important shops such as supermarkets, pharmacies and banks will remain open. Hair salons, beauty salons, and tattoo parlors must also close.

The government will support affected companies with a total of around 11 billion euros per month. Companies that are forced to close can receive up to 90% of the fixed costs or up to 500,000 euros per month, said Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

Schools are generally closed and employers are asked to close operations or let employees work from home. The sale of fireworks is prohibited before New Year’s Eve.

Germany has been partially closed for six weeks, bars and restaurants are closed, while shops and schools have remained open. Some regions have already taken stricter measures as infections increased.

“‘Lockdown Light’ had an effect, but it wasn’t enough,” said Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Soeder. “The situation is out of control.”

Private gatherings are limited to a maximum of five people from two households. During the Christmas holidays, the rule is relaxed slightly so that families can celebrate together.

Merkel and Soeder said it was too early to say whether the economy could reopen after January 10th.

New daily infections and deaths have hit records in the past few days, and more politicians have been sounding the alarm.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, was more successful than many European countries in keeping the pandemic under control in the first wave in March and April. But there was an effort to turn the tide in the second wave.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 20,200 to 1,320,716, as data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose 321 to 21,787.

($ 1 = 0.8257 euros)

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