Germany expected to go into full lockdown from Wednesday

Berlin, Dec 13 (efe-epa).- German chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of the country’s 16 federal states were meeting on Sunday with a view to approving tougher nationwide lockdown restrictions amid record-breaking coronavirus infection rates.

Germany set records for the highest number of cases and deaths on Friday, and officials are warning that some of the country’s regional health systems are on the verge of becoming overwhelmed.

According to a draft government proposal shared with German media, the new restrictions will force all non-essential shops to close, a bitter blow to retailers just before the Christmas holiday season, normally their busiest and most profitable time of the year.

Schools and kindergartens will also face tougher restrictions. The new measures will be in effect from Wednesday until at least January 10.

Germany has been under a partial lockdown since November, when bars and restaurants closed except for takeaway or delivery services, while shops were allowed to stay open with certain capacity and hygiene measures in place.

But those restrictions have not succeeded in curbing the second wave of the pandemic.

For weeks, Merkel has been calling for Covid measures to be stepped up in order to allow for families to celebrate Christmas together.

In an impassioned speech to the Bundestag on Wednesday, she said: “As hard as it is – and I know how much love has gone into setting up the mulled wine stands and waffle stands – this is not compatible with the agreement we made to only take food away to eat at home.”

“I’m really sorry from the bottom of my heart. But if the price we pay is 590 deaths a day, then that is unacceptable in my view,” she said.

Some regions have resisted those calls, while others, such as Saxony and Bavaria, have already imposed tougher restrictions.

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