Germany to enter strict Easter shutdown amid 'new pandemic'
Germany will enter a strict shutdown for five days over Easter as it fights soaring infection rates fuelled by variants in a "new pandemic", Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday after marathon talks with regional leaders, AFP reports.
As well as extending existing measures including keeping cultural, leisure and sporting facilities shut through to April 18, Merkel and Germany's 16 state premiers agreed a tougher shutdown between April 1 and 5.
Almost all shops will be closed during the five days, and religious services will be moved online over Easter. Only grocers will be allowed to open on Saturday April 3.
"The situation is serious. Case numbers are rising exponentially and intensive care beds are filling up again," said Merkel.
The British variant has become the dominant strain circulating in Germany, she said, noting that "we are in a new pandemic."
"Essentially, we have a new virus...it is much deadlier, much more infectious and infectious for much longer," the veteran leader said.
Europe's biggest economy had begun easing restrictions, first reopening schools in late February, before allowing hairdressers and some shops to resume business in March.
But Berlin and the federal states were forced to row back on relaxations this week as new infection numbers rose exponentially.
On Monday, the national incidence rate reached 107.3 cases per 100,000 people, with more than 7,700 new cases and 50 deaths reported.