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eaders in Germany's 16 states have agreed to step up the country's lockdown measures from December 16. Picture: PA

PM Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states to impose a national lockdown in order to regain control of rising coronavirus infection rates before a “very difficult Christmas” summit on Sunday morning.

Germany has been in a “soft lockdown” mode since 4 November, with bars and restaurants closed, while stores and schools have remained open.

But the compromise arrangement has failed to make a significant dent in the daily coronavirus rates, with the number of new infections reported by country’s disease control agency holding at about 20,000 cases.

*Restrictions on social gatherings will now be relaxed for a shorter period than previously announced, from 24-26 December, allowing each household to be visited by four family members above the age of 14. Those planning to spend Christmas with their families are urged to limit social contacts to “an absolute minimum” in the week ahead.

*Non-essential shops, excluding food retailers, pharmacies and banks but including hairdressing salons and beauty parlours, will have to close their doors from 16 December.

*Drinking alcohol in public will be banned until 10 January.

*Schools and nurseries will also be required to offer only emergency care for essential workers for the last three days before the start of the scheduled Christmas holidays, with parents asked to look after their children at home “whenever possible”. With the exception of Christmas, the number of people allowed to meet indoors will remain restricted to five, not including children under 14.

*Employers are urged to either release workers for early holidays or allow for more generous remote working arrangements.

*Tighter rules will come into force for New Year’s Eve, banning the customary firework displays in large public squares, the sale of pyrotechnics for personal use and the outdoor consumption of alcoholic drinks. The sale of fireworks traditionally used to celebrate New Year's will also be banned, as will public outdoor gatherings on New Year's Eve. Bavaria's governor, Markus Soeder, said the ban on fireworks follows appeals from hospitals which said they would not be able to treat the large number of serious injuries that result from mishandled explosives every year, according to IBC.

*Some states are also implementing additional measures, such as Bavaria, which will have a 9 p.m. curfew. Earlier in the week, the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg said it was introducing a curfew -- starting on Saturday and lasting until January 10 -- where people will only be allowed to leave the house for work and medical appointments, state premier Winfried Kretschmann said in a press briefing.

Christmas rules during Covid-19 Pandemic

In the broadest strokes, the restrictions imposed this November are set for an extension for at least three weeks, until December 20. A decision for January is then scheduled for December 15, but states say they are working on the assumption that restrictions will still be required.

Hotels, restaurants and gyms will remain closed. People should stay at home as much as possible, avoiding unnecessary travel and contact.

Christmas exemptions

To apply from December 23 to January 1

  • Meetings involving people from more than two households to be permitted
  • Maximum of five may be increased to 10 people (under-14s still exempt)
  • People will be encouraged to voluntarily self-isolate for several days ahead of this period
  • Churches may be permitted to conduct festive ceremonies — aiming to avoid typical, larger services

New Year's celebrations

  • Letting off fireworks in streets to be discouraged or perhaps banned in public places
  • Sale, purchase and release of fireworks will not face an outright ban


  • Start of Christmas holidays to be pulled forward in all states to December 16
  • Masks should also be required in classes (currently they are required only when moving around the school, not at desks) from year 7 upwards in areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 residents
  • However, schools that can demonstrate no infections can be exempt
  • The decision on implementing home schooling to rest with individual states
  • Staggering school start times by year under consideration, in bid to reduce numbers of students arriving and leaving at once
  • Universities to conduct as many classes as possible remotely, with exceptions like laboratory or art studio sessions
Germany recorded 20,200 newly confirmed cases and 321 additional deaths on Sunday, a high number for the weekend when many local authorities do not report figures.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Germany has risen over the past two weeks from 21.23 new cases per 100,000 people on November 28 to 26 new cases per 100,000 people on December 12.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the government will provide further financial support for businesses affected by the lockdown.

German news agency dpa reported that the additional sums set aside amounted to 11.2 billion euros (£10.3 billion).

Employers will be asked to let staff work from home, where possible, for the next month.

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