Germany is facing the prospect of a tough lockdown at the turn of the year as Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to meet the nation’s 16 state premiers on Sunday to discuss their response to a surging second wave of infections.
The video conference is expected to start at 10 am (0900 GMT). Merkel and other top officials are pushing for a nationwide response, although Germany’s federal system of government often leads to a patchwork of rules across the country.
The states were able to agree to a partial lockdown in early November, which forced all bars, restaurants and leisure facilities to close and largely imposed a two-household limit on gatherings, while shops and schools stayed open.
But the measures have largely failed. Germany has registered grim new records in the pandemic in recent days and hospitals in some regions are reaching capacity.
A full lockdown would be expected to close all but essential shops until well into the new year, while tougher contact restrictions are also on the agenda.
It remains unclear when such measures would come into effect and how they would affect families’ plans to celebrate Christmas together.
“Our society has to get ready for a hard lockdown, and the way it’s shaping up, more likely before Christmas than after Christmas,” Winfried Kretschmann, premier of the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, said on Saturday.
According to a media report, the federal and state governments have broadly agreed ahead of Sunday’s conference to go into lockdown from Wednesday at the latest.
Business Insider said that gatherings are due to remain capped at two households and a maximum of five people, excluding children under the age of 14.
This limit would be raised to a maximum of 10 people between December 24 and 26, and more than two households would be able to meet if they are directly related.
The most divisive question is whether schools and daycare should be closed or kept open, according to the report. Apparently, all agree there should be no in-person teaching until after January 10, but how this is implemented depends on regulations in the different states.
On Friday, the country’s coronavirus case count and death toll surged at their fastest rates yet, with 29,875 new coronavirus infections and 598 deaths reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control.
On Sunday, the RKI reported 20,200 new cases, bringing the total number of infections confirmed in the pandemic so far to 1,320,716. The death toll increased by 321 to reach 21,787.
The numbers tend to be slightly lower on Sundays, due in part to a lull in testing over the weekend.