BERLIN (AP) – Germany has extended its, including essentially shutting down public life over Easter to drive down the rate of coronavirus infections. Speaking early Tuesday after a lengthy
with the country’s 16 state governors, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that restrictions set to run through March 28 will remain in place until April 18. Coronavirus infections have increased steadily in Germany as the more contagious variant first detected in Britain has become dominant. The country’s daily number of cases per capita has .
“We have a new pandemic,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.
“Essentially, we have a new virus, obviously of the same type but with completely different characteristics,” she added. “Significantly more deadly, significantly more infectious (and) infectious for longer.”
Since their last meeting three weeks ago, which saw the two sides agree on a multi-step plan to relax restrictions, several states have tried to avoid going back intowhen the weekly number of new infections exceeds 100 per 100,000 residents for three consecutive days.
Merkel made clear that she wouldn’t accept that.
“Unfortunately, we will have to use this emergency brake,” she said.
The weekly infection rate per 100,000 people stood at 107 nationwide on Monday, up from the mid-60s three weeks ago. Officials agreed to essentially shut downand shutting down most stores. Public gatherings will be banned from April 1-5 to encourage people to . over the rise in Germans traveling abroad on holidays, authorities also agreed on a blanket requirement for air travelers to be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a flight to Germany.
Drawing up legally watertight rules has proved a headache at times. In Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, a court said Monday it struck down laws requiring people to get appointments to visit shops. It said they violated a requirement that businesses get equal treatment.
Thepromptly reinstated the rules, tightening them for some businesses – such as bookshops and garden centers – that were previously exempt.
According to Tuesday’s agreement, authorities will aim to offer free tests to all, many of which have only recently reopened after months of remote teaching.
Merkel said Germany, which had comparatively lowlast spring, has seen “successes but also of setbacks” and insisted that the situation improve as more people get vaccinated. Germany‘s has so far lagged behind expectations, with only about 9% of the population receiving at least a first shot and 4% receiving both doses by Sunday.
“It’s difficult for longer than we thought,” said Merkel. “But there’s light visible at the end of the tunnel.” Asked about the EU’s plans to restrict the export of, Merkel said she supported efforts by the bloc’s executive Commission to ensure contracts are fulfilled, citing the supply problems the EU has had with the AstraZeneca shot.
Britain, which left the EU last year, has strongly, fearing getting cut off from deliveries. Merkel said she and French President Emmanuel Macron had recently spoken to Britain’s about the issue. EU leaders would aim to “in a responsible way” at a virtual summit Thursday.
AP journalist Geir Moulson contributed to this report.
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