Germany to tighten work-from-home rules amid fears of coronavirus variant

States aim to get employers to justify why their staff had to come to work. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN (REUTERS) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely to agree with regional leaders on stricter requirements for working from home - among other measures - as they try to rein in the coronavirus, leading politicians said.

New infections have been decreasing in recent days and pressure on intensive care units has eased slightly, but virologists are worried about the possible spread of more infectious variants of the virus.

National and regional leaders meet on Tuesday (Jan 19) to decide on extending a current lockdown which has closed most shops and schools as well as introducing new restrictions.

"The infection numbers have been going down for several weeks or stagnating, and that's good. Now we are facing a very aggressive mutation that we have to respond to," Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller told German television.

Mr Mueller said curfews, already in place in states including southern Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, would be under discussion but were unlikely to be imposed everywhere.

"(On curfews), states will want to decide on the basis of infection numbers in individual states," Mr Mueller said.

The focus would be on boosting working from home, he said.

"There are some places of production where workers have to be present but there is much more room for manoeuvre," he said, adding that states aimed to get employers to justify why their staff had to come to work.

Also up for discussion is a compulsory wearing of heavy duty masks in shops and on public transport, which offer more protection than cloth coverings, said Mr Mueller.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen by 11,369 to 2.05 million, the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases showed on Tuesday. The death toll was up 989 at 47,622.

"We will have to step it up a notch to bring the current early successes to the finish line," Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told broadcaster RTL/n-tv.

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