BERLIN: Germany has extended its lockdown for three weeks, imposing an almost complete halt over the Easter holiday in response to a third wave of coronavirus infections, reports BBC.
After talks with regional leaders Chancellor Angela Merkel said current measures would remain until 18 April. Restrictions will be even tougher from 1-5 April, when most shops will be shut and gatherings will be limited.Merkel said Germany was now in a “very serious” situation.
“Case numbers are rising exponentially and intensive care beds are filling up again,” the chancellor told a news conference on Tuesday.
Coronavirus infections have been surging across Europe in recent weeks as countries scramble to vaccinate their populations despite delays in rolling out jabs.
The infection rate has risen above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants in Germany. A further 7,485 infections have been reported in the past 24 hours as well as 250 deaths.
Announcing the new restrictions after marathon crisis talks with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states, Merkel said the highly contagious UK (Kent) variant of coronavirus had become dominant in Germany, plunging the country into what she called “a new pandemic”.
“Essentially, we have a new virus,” the German chancellor said. “It is much deadlier, much more infectious and infectious for much longer. “ Germany was in a race against time to roll out vaccinations against the coronavirus, she added.Tuesday’s lockdown extension marks a reversal from earlier this month, when state leaders agreed to begin a cautious reopening process.
Existing measures, such as the closure of sporting facilities, will remain in place until 18 April.An “emergency brake” will halt further re-openings in areas where infections exceed 100 new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period.
Among measures agreed late on Monday by Danish leaders is a proposed “corona pass”, which would say whether the holder has been vaccinated, previously infected or has had a negative test in the past 72 hours. Children under 15 will be exempt.
The aim of the passport, which will be available on mobile phones as well as on paper, will be to enable people who fulfil the requirements to go to the hairdresser, a restaurant or eventually a cinema.
The current plan is to reopen small shopping centres from 13 April and larger ones from 21 April, along with outdoor eating at cafes and restaurants. Cinemas and indoor dining would resume on 6 May.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said most restrictions would be lifted once all over 50s had been vaccinated, which she expects to happen in May.
The rollout of vaccinations across the EU remains sluggish - far behind the scale of vaccinations achieved by Israel, the UK and US.
Part of the reason for that is supply problems with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine - now at the centre of political tensions between the UK and EU over the firm’s contractual obligations.
The EU is now considering an export ban targeting AstraZeneca production in Europe. EU officials complain that too much of the vaccine is going to the UK and other countries, rather than staying in the EU.
Meanwhile, Hungary has become the first EU country to approve use of China’s CanSino Biologics coronavirus vaccine and CoviShield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Reuters news agency reports.
EU states are allowed to strike separate deals with vaccine makers which have not signed agreements with the EU. Hungary is already using China’s Sinopharm vaccine and the Russian Sputnik vaccine.
The EU regulator, the European Medicines Agency, has so far approved four vaccines - from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.