Germany is all but certain to extend its coronavirus shutdown into next month, prompting the government to set aside around 17 billion euros in financial aid for businesses hit by forced closures in December, sources told dpa on Tuesday.
The country brought back nationwide closures and restrictions at the start of November in response to a surging second wave of coronavirus infections.
On Wednesday, when Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with the country’s 16 state premiers, these measures are expected to be extended.
A draft proposal penned by the regional leaders and seen by dpa suggests prolonging the partial lockdown until December 20, while setting out a special plan for the Christmas period in the hopes that families can still celebrate the holiday together in limited groups.
It calls for members of one household to be allowed to meet with up to 10 other people from other households from December 23 until January 1. Children aged under 14 will be excluded from the rule.
The state premiers are also appealing to people to undergo a period of self-isolation prior to Christmas for a few days, in a bid to prevent infection at holiday gatherings.
Employers and schools would be urged to show flexibility to allow people to stay at home in the run-up to Christmas.
The states also want fireworks to be banned in busy public spaces, hemming in a popular way of ringing in the New Year in Germany.
A final decision on Germany’s next steps in the pandemic is to be made during the talks with Merkel on Wednesday, after which each state administration will be responsible for enacting the measures in its region.
The current November shutdown forced the closure of bars, restaurants and leisure facilities, while bringing back a two-household limit for gatherings.
So far, the German government has already promised support to affected businesses with around 14-15 billion euros this month.
The aid is designed to reimburse lost revenue. The application process for claimants is expected to begin over the course of this week.
December might bring with it even stricter limits on socializing. The 16 states are pushing for a tightening of the rule for gatherings from December 1, under which no more than five people could meet from two households. Again, children would be excluded.
A decision on whether to roll out mask-wearing in school classrooms is also expected on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control added another 13,554 infections to its confirmed caseload, which now amounts to 942,687 cases in the pandemic so far.
The coronavirus-related death toll increased by 249 to reach 14,361.