Germany’s tough anti-Covid measures are likely to last a further eight to 10 weeks, Angela Merkel has warned, while the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, is set to extend the Netherlands’ national lockdown into next month.
As Europe struggles to stem the number of cases and deaths and concerns mount about the new, more contagious UK variant, the German chancellor said infections could rise 10-fold by Easter if the country did not succeed in containing the virus’s spread.
Germany’s lockdown, under which schools and non-essential shops and services have closed, was due to last until 31 January, but Merkel reportedly told a working group of her Christian Democratic Union: “We still need eight to 10 weeks of hard measures.”
The country has been recording record daily case numbers and deaths in the 900-1,000 range but the figures remain skewed due to under-reporting over the Christmas holiday and a true picture is not expected to be available until 17 January.
With new variants believed to be in Germany, including the B117 variant from the UK and N501Y from South Africa, the health minister, Jens Spahn, has ordered labs to test every 10th sample for variants compared with every 900th sample previously.
The Dutch government, meanwhile, is expected on Tuesday to extend the country’s lockdown by three weeks, with experts warning the country has no alternative since the number of positive tests, while declining, is not falling fast enough.
The epidemiologist Amrish Baidjoe told the public broadcaster NOS that if the government relaxed the rules “and the British variant takes hold in the Netherlands, then the figures can rise rapidly and we will end up with a situation like in Britain”.
Germany and Netherlands likely to extend Covid lockdowns The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ The Guardian.