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Germany to extend lockdown to February 15th on fears of COVID variants

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to agree with regional leaders to extend a lockdown for most shops and schools until mid-February as part of a package of steps to try to rein in the coronavirus, sources said before talks on Tuesday as reported by Reuters.

Ahead of her meeting with the State premiers, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she wants the lockdown to be extended until February 15, as cited by Bild newspaper.

The meeting between Merkel and state leaders is due later this Tuesday, initially scheduled for 25 January.

The German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said:  “The reason is the mutation of the virus that has appeared.”

New infections have been decreasing in recent days and pressure on intensive care units has eased slightly, but virologists are worried about the possible spread of more infectious variants of the virus.

“It is likely that we will agree on a two-week extension,” said one person involved in the talks, confirming a report in Bild daily. The existing lockdown runs until Jan. 31.

The federal government has proposed that people are obliged to wear medical masks on public transport and in shops and that aid for companies should be improved due to the extension, a draft of the resolution to be discussed showed, we wrote about this here>>>.

The federal government would also create a working group to draw up a blueprint for a safe and fair opening strategy, said the draft.

READ ALSO: Germany prepares for stricter restrictions – resumption of border controls, suspension of public transport

“The infection numbers have been going down for several weeks or stagnating and that’s good. Now we are facing a very aggressive mutation that we have to respond to,” Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller told German television.

He said one focus would be encouraging people to work from home.

“There is much more room for manoeuvre,” said Mueller, adding states aimed to get employees to have to justify why employees had to come to work.

Leaders would also discuss curfews, already in place in some states, but it was unlikely they would be imposed everywhere, he said. We wrote about leaders debating the extension to a night curfew here>>.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen by 11,369 to 2.05 million, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The death toll was up 989 at 47,622.