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German lockdown: Merkel orders tough new COVID curbs

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The German chancellor has announced the closure of stores, schools and day care centers in the run up to Christmas to stem the surge in coronavirus cases. The new rules will come into effect from Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday ordered most stores to shut from Wednesday, along with schools and day-care centers.

The new restrictions will be in effect until at least January 10 to help tackle the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic which threatens to overwhelm the country’s health system.

In a news conference after a meeting of federal and state leaders, she said the country urgently needed to address the exponential rise in COVID-19 infections.

The decision is set to cause a major disruption for retailers, the education system and the public in the lead up to the Christmas holidays.

What do the new restrictions consist of?

  • All non-essential shops and services will close until January 10, including hairdressers which remained open under the current lockdown “lite.”
  • Schools are urged to send students home and continue lessons online as well as extending the Christmas holidays until January 10.
  • Day-care centers will also close, but parents will be able to take paid holidays in order to look after their children.
  • Employers are encouraged to allow employees to work from home.
  • People will not be allowed to drink alcohol in public.
  • Religious events in churches, synagogues, and mosques may take place if they follow hygiene rules, but communal singing is not allowed.
  • States still plan to ease stricter contact restrictions for December 24 to 26 so that close family members can spend Christmas together — a household may, during this time, invite up to four adults from other households but only from the immediate family, plus any number of children under 14.
  • People may not purchase fireworks for New Year’s Eve.

The chancellor also recommended that families who are planning to meet up should isolate for a week beforehand to be safe.

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