Chancellor Angela Merkel announces new measures after marathon talks with state prime ministers.
Germany will extend its coronavirus restrictions until April 18 and enter a strict lockdown for five days over Easter in a bid to stop the spike in infection rates, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday morning after talks marathon with regional leaders that took place overnight.
In addition to expanding existing measures that closed cultural, leisure and sports facilities, Merkel and the 16 prime ministers of Germany have agreed to a stricter lockdown for the Easter holidays between April 1 and April 5.
“We are now in a very serious situation,” Merkel said at a press conference, adding that Germany was in a race against time to vaccinate its population against the coronavirus.
Germany’s National Center for Disease Control has warned that new infections are increasing exponentially as the more contagious variant of COVID-19 first detected in the UK has also become dominant within its own borders .
The Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases said the number of cases per 100,000 population in a week rose to 107 on Monday, above the 100 threshold at which intensive care units will start to run out of capacity . More than 3,000 people with COVID-19 were in intensive care on Sunday.
Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder said the new variants increased the risk of a pandemic.
“We are now probably living in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic,” Soeder told reporters in Berlin.
Under the Easter restrictions, almost all stores will be closed during the five-day period and church services will be moved online. Grocers will be the only stores allowed to open on Saturday April 3. Easter falls on April 4.
Germany began to cautiously ease restrictions earlier this month, amid growing weariness over continued restrictions and protests among some people.
Health Minister Jens Spahn on Friday warned that there was not enough vaccine doses in Europe to contain a third wave of COVID-19. Vaccine distribution has been disrupted by supply issues as well as the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine.