Stores and schools will be closed, and public and private meetings will be restricted over the holidays, in an effort to bring down coronavirus infections and deaths.
Germans will be forced into a strict lockdown over Christmas, after weeks of milder restrictions on public life failed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, leading to record numbers of new infections and deaths, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Sunday.
Starting on Wednesday, nonessential stores, schools and hairdressers will be required to close, and companies will be encouraged to offer employees an extended holiday break or allow them to work from home. The number of people allowed to meet privately — including over Christmas — will also be further tightened. New Year’s celebrations outdoors will be all but prohibited, with the sale of fireworks and gatherings in public both banned.
“All of this will impact the holidays, we know that, but we have been forced to take action and that is what we are doing now,” Ms. Merkel said at a news conference announcing the measures, which are to remain in place through Jan. 10.
Germany earned widespread recognition for its success in halting the spread of the virus in the spring through an aggressive approach informed by science and carried out through contact tracing, early and aggressive testing and coordinated nationwide restrictions. But since then, the country has stumbled badly, allowing a false sense of complacency to set in. Leaders of Germany’s 16 states — responsible for implementing public health policy — have also been resistant to following calls from the chancellor and medical experts for another lockdown this fall.