Germany mulls tighter shutdown as virus variants fuel fears

BERLIN (AFP) – Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of Germany’s 16 states were expected to extend and tighten a partial lockdown beyond January, as fears grow over virus variant strains believed to be more contagious.

Germany shuttered restaurants, leisure and sporting facilities in November, then expanded the shutdown in mid-December to include schools and most shops to halt runaway growth in new coronavirus infections.

The measures ordered until the end of January have brought about a “flattening of the infections curve”, said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert, noting also that the number of patients in intensive care had also fallen slightly. “This trend is cautiously positive and a success of the restrictions of the last weeks,” he said.

“But it only brings us to the point where we still have a long way to go before we can say we have the infections under control,” he added.

Virus variants first seen in Britain and South Africa also posed major risks to whether the falling infections trend could be sustained, added Seibert.

While vaccination is underway, Germany has maintained and extended restrictions first imposed in November. PHOTO: AFP