German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on residents to avoid all unnecessary social contacts in a speech to the Bundestag on Thursday.
She said current lockdown measures had enjoyed some success, but more was needed to avoid the health system being overwhelmed.
“It is inconceivable where we would be today if we had not been willing and able to make this national effort four weeks ago, when it was literally 5 to 12,” she said.
The restrictions in force since 2 November have prevented the worst from happening — overhwhelming the health system, she said.
“This is an initial success, but it is not yet a sustainable success,” she said. The “urgently needed trend reversal” in infection rates has not yet been achieved.
“Our goal is and remains to reduce the number of infections to such an extent that the health authorities are once again able to recognise and interrupt infection chains,” Merkel stressed.
She said this would be achieved if the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants fell below 50 within seven days. In most regions of Germany, the figure is currently significantly higher.
Merkel’s comments came after new restrictions were agreed during a seven-hour meeting with Germany’s 16 state premiers.
If things go well, the rules will relaxed slightly between December 23 to January 1 for the celebration of Christmas. Up to 10 people are to be allowed to meet, with children aged 14 and under exempt from the limit.
Restaurants and bars will still be required to stay closed over the holiday period. People are urged to voluntarily self-isolate before and after holiday gatherings.
Employers should show flexibility and allow people to stay at home to work over this period. Public firework displays will be banned in busy squares and streets.
The amnesty is guaranteed.
Germany on Wednesday recorded its highest 24-hour death rate, with 410 people succumbing to the coronavirus.
Roughly 20,000 new infections are being recorded each day in Germany, with 22,000 recorded on Thursday.
The infection rate had been accelerating before the November lockdown, and total cases are approaching one million.
Coronavirus: Germany’s Angela Merkel urges avoiding unnecessary social contacts The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Deutsche Welle.