German states favour extending Covid-19 lockdown to boost Christmas prospects

Germany imposed a month-long "lockdown-lite" and infection numbers have plateaued since but not declined.
Germany imposed a month-long "lockdown-lite" and infection numbers have plateaued since but not declined.PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (REUTERS) - Many of Germany's 16 federal states favour extending a partial shutdown meant to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and make family gatherings over Christmas possible, two state premiers said on Monday (Nov 23).

Germany, which is governed by a conservative-Social Democratic coalition, imposed a month-long "lockdown-lite" from Nov 2. Infection numbers have plateaued since but not declined.

"The November shutdown has brought something, the (infection) numbers are subdued but they remain high," Ms Manuela Schwesig, premier of the northern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, told Deutschlandfunk (DLF) radio. "For this reason, many states believe that the November shutdown must continue, especially in the risk areas," the Social Democrat said.

Saxony-Anhalt state premier Reiner Haseloff, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, told a news conference there was a general agreement that current restrictions should be extended for about three weeks.

State premiers and Dr Merkel are due to discuss the measures on Wednesday. They could extend them until Dec 20, according to draft proposals from the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats obtained by Reuters.

Bars and restaurants are closed under the November lockdown but schools and shops remain open. Private gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 10,864 to 929,133 over the past 24 hours, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday.

The reported death toll rose by 90 to 14,112 in Germany, a country of 83 million with Europe's biggest economy.

Financial support for businesses could be extended into December, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier was quoted as saying on DLF.

Preparations for Covid-19 vaccinations should be completed by mid-December to be able to immediately start inoculations should vaccines become available before the end of the year, Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters.

Such hopes have been boosted by Pfizer's and BioNTech's US application for emergency use authorisation of their Covid-19 vaccine.