Berlin, Germany: Germany is to go into an intense lockdown over the Christmas period as the number of deaths and infections of the COVID-19 touches record levels.
Non-essential shops will shut across the country from Wednesday, as will schools, with children to be cared for at home wheresoever possible.
Chancellor Angela Merkel indicted Christmas shopping for a “considerable” rise in social contacts.
The latest numbers showed 20,200 more infections and a further 321 deaths.
The new lockdown will continue from 16 December to 10 January. Announcing the move after engaging leaders of the country’s 16 states, Mrs Merkel said there was “an urgent need to take action”.
Restaurants, bars and leisure markets have already been closed since November, and some sections of the country had imposed their own lockdowns.
Supporting the national lockdown, essential shops, such as those selling food, will stay open, as can banks. Outlets selling Christmas trees can also continue trading. Hair salons are amongst the businesses which must close.
Care homes will be mandated to take out coronavirus tests. New Year celebrations and the sale of fireworks will be banned. Drinking of alcohol in public areas, such as popular mulled wine stalls, is also forbidden.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said affected businesses would receive up to 500,000 euros (£457,000, $605,000) in government support per month
A height of five people from no more than two households is allowed to gather in a home. This will be relaxed from 24 to 26 December – one household can invite a maximum of four close family members from other households.
Bavaria is extending a night curfew from areas with high infection rates to the whole state – the second most populous in Germany.
Chancellor Merkel told it was the government’s job to “prevent an overload of our health systems, and that’s why there is an urgent need to take action.”
The latest positive figures recorded 20,200 more infections, making Germany’s total to date to larger than 1.3 million.
The death toll has increased by 321 to 21,787, the Robert Koch Institute states.