Non-essential shops, schools to close in Germany: Merkel

BERLIN (AFP) – Shops selling non-essential goods, hair-salons and schools in Germany will close from Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, to halt an “exponential growth” in new coronavirus infections in Europe’s biggest economy.

The partial lockdown will apply until January 10, with companies also urged to allow employees to work from home or offer extended company holidays, under the new measures agreed by Merkel with regional leaders of Germany’s 16 states yesterday.

“The corona situation is out of control,” said Bavarian State Premier Markus Soeder, welcoming the tougher restrictions which he pledged to implement in his state.

Germany in November closed leisure and cultural facilities and banned indoor dining in restaurants.

The measures helped to halt rapid growth of infections after the autumn school holidays, but numbers plateaued at a high rate.

Over the last week however, the country’s disease control agency reported that the infections trend has taken a worrying turn.

“With increasing mobility and the therefore linked additional contacts in the pre-holiday period, Germany is now in exponential growth of infections numbers,” said the policy paper agreed by regional leaders and Merkel.

It was therefore “our task to prevent an overload of our health systems and that’s why there is an urgent need to take action”, said the chancellor.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavaria State Premier Markus Soeder arrive to a press conference following talks via video conference on coronavirus restrictions. PHOTO: AFP