Merkel wants German states to close bars, gyms, restaurants to halt coronavirus spread

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting with regional leaders on Wednesday to agree to a partial lockdown across Germany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany's health system could hit breaking point if coronavirus infections continue to spiral. PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (REUTERS) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants state premiers on Wednesday (Oct 28) to agree to close all restaurants and bars from Nov 4 in a bid to curb coronavirus infections but keep schools and nurseries open, a draft resolution seen by Reuters showed.

Under the new restrictions people would be able to go out in public only with members of their own household and one other household, said the resolution. It said people would be punished if they broke the rule, but did not give further details.

It said an exponential increase in infections in almost all regions of Germany meant that many local health authorities could not track and trace all infections so it was necessary to significantly reduce contact between people now in the hope that extensive restrictions are not required over Christmas.

If the leaders of Germany's 16 states agree to the draft during a telephone conference later on Wednesday, fitness studios, discos and cinemas will close along with theatres, opera houses and concert venues.

Shops would be allowed to remain open if they implement hygiene measures and limit customer numbers, while restaurants would only be allowed to offer takeaways.

Germany, widely praised for keeping its infection rate well below other major powers in the initial phase of the crisis, now faces a faster-than-expected surge in cases, with the latest data from Tuesday showing cases increased by 11,409 to 449,275.

The government has so far been keen to avoid a second national lockdown after an initial shutdown earlier this year hit economic growth hard.

But Dr Merkel warned on Tuesday that Germany's health system could hit breaking point if coronavirus infections continue to spiral and Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Germany was likely to reach 20,000 new infections a day by the end of the week.

Mr Altmaier told German broadcaster ARD on Wednesday: "We are in a very difficult situation in the pandemic - the infection numbers are exploding and that is threatening the capacity of the health system and therefore human lives so politicians have to act."

The draft said the federal government wanted to provide financial aid to firms affected by closures, adding that a concept for this would be presented on Wednesday.

It said only "necessary and specifically non-tourist" stays overnight would be allowed and brothels, swimming pools, cosmetic studios, massage parlours and tattoo studios would all have to close their doors but physiotherapy services and hairdressers would be able to stay open.

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