Germany May Extend Lockdown to Slow Virus Before Christmas

Germany’s partial lockdown may be extended well into next month as Europe’s biggest economy seeks to regain control over the spread of the coronavirus before people head home for the holidays.

Officials are beginning to assume that the current curbs will have to be extended and are aiming to see them lifted shortly before the holiday period, according to a person familiar with the matter.

State leaders are considering reopening hotels and restaurants at least during the lucrative Christmas and New Year period so they can generate much-needed sales, the person said, declining to be identified because the talks are private. Officials would look at reinstating the controls in January if the infection rate is still considered to be too high, the person added.

More than two weeks into a partial shutdown -- which closed museums, bars and restaurants but kept schools and most shops open -- Germany’s contagion rates are still above the level that authorities have determined to be manageable, raising the prospect of tougher curbs over the festive period. Economy Minister Peter Altmaier entered quarantine on Friday after contact with an infected colleague, though Altmaier himself has tested negative.

Still, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the one-month circuit breaker is effective and managed to “break the exponential growth” in new infections. “We agree that this is not enough, but it has succeeded -- once again,” Die Welt quoted the minister as saying.

Germany added nearly 23,000 new coronavirus infections as of Saturday morning, lifting total cases to more than 900,000. The regions of Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony posted the highest infection rates recently, and the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care has “risen sharply” since mid-October, the Berlin-based Robert Koch Institute said.

Government Plan

Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with state leaders on Wednesday to lay out a long-term plan to fight the pandemic under mounting pressure to lift restrictions. The German leader drew widespread criticism from state leaders this week for proposing that children be limited to just a single playmate and that face masks should be mandatory in schools.

Friedrich Merz, one of three candidates for the leadership of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, called for a longer-term lockdown strategy that looks beyond the weeks ahead and warned the federal and state governments against maintaining the Corona-related restrictions over Christmas.

“Surely one can already say in mid-November that Christmas can take place within families,” Merz said in an interview with Germany’s Tagesspiegel newspaper. “Personally, I say: It’s also none of the state’s business how I celebrate Christmas with my family.”

There is far-reaching consensus that Germany’s lockdown should be prolonged until Dec. 20, Berliner Morgenpost reported earlier, citing people from the state government in Berlin whom it didn’t identify.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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