WORLD Germany to prolong shutdown as virus deaths surge

WORLD

Germany to prolong shutdown as virus deaths surge

AFP

10:21, January 05, 2021

A sign reading 'Winterberg ski area closed' is seen at the A1 motorway in Hagen, western Germany, on January 4, 2021 amid the ongoing novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: AFP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders are expected Tuesday to extend a shutdown in Europe's top economy as coronavirus deaths continue to mount despite tough restrictions in the run-up to the holidays.

After Germany's daily deaths surpassed the 1,000-mark for the first time on December 30, pressure escalated to slow the spread of the disease which has claimed more than 34,000 lives.

Merkel and the premiers of Germany's 16 states are due to meet Tuesday, with regional leaders signalling that they would prolong the current partial lockdown beyond the January 10 deadline, probably until the end of the month.

"Given that infection rates are still too high it will be necessary to extend the restrictions," Health Minister Jens Spahn said Monday.

Michael Kretschmer, premier of Saxony, the state with the highest infection rates in the country, said a continued shutdown was "unavoidable".

People walk past Christmas trees standing in front of the Koelner Dom cathedral in Cologne, western Germany on January 4, 2021 amid the ongoing novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: AFP)

The current rules have seen most shops closed along with schools, restaurants, cultural and leisure facilities, and celebrations over Christmas and the New Year holidays were limited to small gatherings.

Officials say the impact of holiday travel and socialising on the virus's spread will not be known until mid-January but that the figures to date are already deeply worrying.

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