Germany is likely to extend a national lockdown beyond January 10 to curb coronavirus infection rates that are still running high and putting huge strains on hospitals and health workers, politicians said at the weekend.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional leaders are expected to agree to extend the restrictions when they convene on Tuesday. It is not yet clear how long the extension would last.
“The numbers are still too high, so we will have to prolong the restrictions,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told RTL television in an interview on Saturday evening.
Infection rates had to be sustainably reduced, Spahn said, adding: “That is better than loosening too early and then, perhaps in as little as a few weeks, facing new and difficult questions.”
Germany imposed tougher social restrictions before Christmas, including closing restaurants and most shops. Even so, infections continued to rise and the death toll has hit more than a thousand on some days.
Seven-day infection rates are currently at 140 per 100,000 people – well over the target of 50 that politicians have agreed would be safe enough to ease the curbs.
With a new, more infectious coronavirus variant circulating, some politicians and health leaders are calling for the restrictions to be lifted only when the seven-day rate falls to 25.