German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a news conference at the end of a EU leaders summit in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a news conference at the end of a EU leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, December 11, 2020. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool

December 12, 2020

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to discuss on Sunday a tightening of lockdown restrictions with state leaders as coronavirus infections rise and amid growing calls for action, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Germany has been in partial lockdown for six weeks, with bars and restaurants closed but shops and schools open. Some regions have already imposed tougher measures.

The discussions on Sunday will include whether shops should be closed before the Christmas holiday and the timing of such a move, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the RND newspaper group on Saturday that hospital intensive care units were beginning to be stretched to their limits and that Germany couldn’t wait until after Christmas to react.

“We have to clarify how things will continue now,” he said. “Otherwise the pandemic will get completely out of control.”

Germany, which has 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 it has been struggling to turn the tide in the second wave with what has been dubbed a “lockdown lite”.

Daily new coronavirus infections have climbed to 28,438, while the daily death toll was 496, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke. Writing by Tom Sims. Editing by Mark Potter)

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