Germany tightening restrictions to fight COVID-19

Germany is closing most stores and schools, and further limiting social contacts in an effort to drive down the rate of coronavirus infections that have remained stubbornly high in recent weeks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states agreed Sunday to step up the country’s lockdown measures from Dec. 16 to Jan. 10 to stop the exponential rise of COVID-19 cases.

Starting next Wednesday, all businesses selling non-essential goods will close, Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

Contact restrictions will be further tightened over Christmas.

“I would have wished for lighter measures. But due to Christmas shopping, the number of social contacts has risen considerably,” Merkel told journalists following her meeting with state leaders.

“There is an urgent need to take action,” she said.

Only five people from two households will be allowed to meet over the holidays, not including children under 14.

New Year’s Eve fireworks will be banned across Germany and gatherings will be also banned that night.

Each federal state will decide if schools and kindergartens will close, however, compulsory schools attendance will be suspended to allow students to stay at home without justification.

Financial support for businesses

The government will support affected companies with a total of around 11 billion euros ($17 billion Cdn) a month. Businesses that are forced to close may receive up to 90 per cent of fixed costs, or up 500,000 euros a month, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said.

Germany recorded 20,200 newly confirmed cases and 321 additional deaths on Sunday, a high number for the weekend when many local authorities don’t report figures.

WATCH | British prime minister urges all citizens to get COVID-19 vaccine:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said being against the coronavirus vaccine is ‘totally the wrong approach,’ as the U.K. kicked off a global vaccination effort.  0:24

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