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Germany to let virus restrictions expire even as cases surge

BERLIN (AP) – The German government on Thursday defended its decision to let many pandemic restrictions expire at the weekend, even as the country hit a new record high for newly confirmed cases.

Germany’s disease control agency reported 294,931 new cases in the past 24 hours. The Robert Koch Institute said there have been a further 278 COVID-related deaths, taking the overall toll since the start of the pandemic to 126,420.

“We are now entering a new phase of the pandemic in which we, like almost all of our neighbouring countries, can do without most of the protective measures,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz said after a meeting with Germany’s 16 state governors.

The decision to end many pandemic restrictions tomorrow, including the requirements to wear masks in public settings and limit spectators in stadiums, was criticised by the states, who can still introduce their own restrictions going forward.

Germany’s powerful industry lobby group BDI had also warned against a “generous” lifting of measures, saying it would be irresponsible in light of the current surge in infections.

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