Germany is extending lockdown measures until April 18 and urging people to stay at home for five days around the Easter holidays in an effort to curb the “exponential” growth in coronavirus cases, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Tuesday.
After negotiating with state premiers for hours starting Monday, Merkel said at a press conference overnight that they had reached an agreement. From April 1 until April 5, or Easter Monday, people should only gather with members of their own household and up to one other, at a maximum of five people over 14 years old. Federal and local officials will also ask that religious services only be conducted online.
Grocery stores will only be able to open one day during this timeframe: Saturday, April 3. Testing and vaccination centers may remain open. April 1 and 3 will also be designated as one-off “days of rest.” Good Friday, on April 2, is already a public holiday in the country.
After the Easter holidays, the government plans to ramp up testing even more, and revert back to rules currently in place, agreed earlier this month. The government will also present a proposal to create a general obligation for testing travelers before their flights to Germany.
Germany had started easing lockdown restrictions earlier this month. Merkel stressed that while the country has made a lot of progress since the first wave of coronavirus hit about a year ago, there have again been setbacks with rising infection rates and intensive care beds filling up. She pointed the finger in particular at the so-called U.K. variant of the virus, saying that because of this, “We now basically have a new pandemic.”
“We should of course not be discouraged by these setbacks, on the contrary, added strength can grow from such setbacks,” Merkel said, adding that the country is now in a “race” with its vaccination efforts.
“Science clearly shows us: The lower the new infection numbers, the faster the vaccination will take effect. The higher the new infections, the longer it takes for the vaccinations to have an impact,” the chancellor said.
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