Germany set to extend lockdown until end of January

BERLIN, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel will agree with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states on Tuesday to extend a strict lockdown until the end of the month in a bid to get control of surging coronavirus infections.

Like many other European countries, Germany is struggling to contain a second wave of the virus. Concern is growing that hospitals will struggle to cope.

“The coronavirus situation is very serious. We must remain tough and should not stop too soon,” Markus Soeder, premier of the southern state of Bavaria tweeted before the talks.

Merkel and state premiers are largely agreed on keeping shops and restaurants shut until the end of January, sources involved in the talks have said.

However, there is a debate over when schools should re-open and on further contact restrictions. Top-selling Bild reported that leaders were discussing whether to introduce a 15 kilometre radius outside which people would not be able to travel.

“I will argue on the side of those who say we must take a much tougher approach,” Bodo Ramelow, premier of the eastern state of Thuringia, told Deutschlandfunk radio.

Germany imposed a partial lockdown in November but was forced to close schools, shops and restaurants in mid-December after the initial steps failed to make the desired impact.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany was up by 11,897 to 1.787 million in the last day, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Tuesday. The death toll rose by 944 to 35,518.

Germany is rolling out a vaccine against COVID-19 but the media and some officials have criticised the government for a slow start and for ordering too few doses. By Monday, around 266,000 people had received a shot. (Additional reporting by Andreas Rinke Reporting by Madeline Chambers)

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long added to this report.