COVID-19: Germany extends lockdown as infection rates almost double in three weeks | World News


Germany’s lockdown restrictions have been extended for almost another month as the country faces a rising rate of coronavirus infections.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said restrictions previously due to end on 28 March will now remain in place until 18 April.

Public life will be largely shut down from 1-3 April, with a public holiday and public gatherings banned from 1-5 April, to encourage people to stay at home.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a news conference after a meeting with state leaders to discuss options beyond the end of the pandemic lockdown, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Berlin, Germany, March 23, 2021. Michael Kappeler/Pool via REUTERS
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the country’s lockdown will be extended

Authorities also said all air travellers must be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a flight to Germany.

The coronavirus infection rate per 100,000 people was 107 on Monday, almost twice as high as it was three weeks ago, fuelled by the more contagious variant first detected in the UK.

Mrs Merkel said: “We basically have a new pandemic.

“Essentially we have a new virus, obviously of the same type but with completely different characteristics.

“Significantly more deadly, significantly more infectious (and) infectious for longer.”

Lockdown in Germany
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Concerns have been raised for the survival of firms by business leaders

Business leaders reacted angrily to the news, with the HDE association of retailers saying the extended restrictions would result in more bankruptcies.

It said 54% of fashion stores faced insolvency after 100 days of lockdown.

President Stefan Genth said: “After one year with coronavirus, the situation for many retailers is desperate.

“There is no longer any hope of surviving this crisis economically.”

He also said that closing supermarkets on the Thursday before Easter would be counterproductive, meaning the stores would be more crowded on the Wednesday and Saturday.

Juergen Karpinski, president of the Association of the German Motor Trade (ZDK), added: “Politicians must not shut down our country any longer.”

He told German magazine and newspaper publisher Funke Mediengruppe that the sector faced a wave of bankruptcies, adding: “If car dealerships contribute practically nothing to infections, how is their closure supposed to help contain the virus?”

Germany’s number of daily cases per capita has now passed that of the US and, with a sluggish vaccination programme, there is little hope of it being under control soon.

As of Sunday, around 4% of the population had been given both doses of a coronavirus vaccine and 9% had been given the first dose.

Mrs Merkel insisted the situation would improve once more people were able to get vaccinated but admitted that the country had seen “successes but also setbacks” in its handling of the pandemic.

“It’s difficult for longer than we thought,” she added, “but there’s definitely light visible at the end of the tunnel”.

The chancellor also reiterated her support for the EU’s plans to restrict the export of vaccines and components as part of an ongoing dispute between the bloc and vaccine suppliers.

But she said that she and French President Emmanuel Macron, who also backs the plan, had both spoken to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the issue in recent days.

EU leaders will aim to reach a decision “in a responsible way” during a summit on Thursday, she added.



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