Germany Tightens Shutdown As Virus Variants Fuel Fears

Nellie Chapman
January 21, 2021

"We can do anything we like, but we will not succeed if others are not working in parallel", Merkel told journalists on Tuesday, two days ahead of a videoconference of European leaders.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier last week issued a joint appeal with union and employer federation representatives, urging firms to have staff work from home "whenever possible". The existing lockdown runs until January 31.

More could be done to keep non-essential workers out of the office and off public transport, they said.

Also up for discussion is a compulsory wearing of heavy-duty masks in shops and on public transport which offer more protection than cloth coverings, said Mueller.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a press conference following a video conference with the Prime Ministers of the federal states discussing new measures to bring down the numbers of Covid-19 infections on January 19.

"There is still time to contain the danger", she said before adding that "We must act now".

She warned that Europe's top economy may have to install border checks if neighbours fail to find a deal within the bloc, noting the many cross-border commuters every day.

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Tuesday's talks between Merkel and state premiers were brought forward by a week because of concerns over virus variants recently discovered in South Africa and Britain.

Denmark PM Mette Frederiksen said that the nation might need to extend its lockdown despite a drop in infections due to the new variant from the UK.

Elsewhere, Japan confirmed 103 new fatalities on Tuesday, the first daily death toll over 1-hundred. The death toll was up 989 at 47,622.

On Monday, Seibert noted that the incidence rate was still over 130 per 100,000 people.

Experts have been alarmed by data showing that while a first shutdown in spring a year ago had led to a sharp drop of 40 percent in mobility, this winter, far more people appear to be on the move.

The changes come as the latest coronavirus figures were released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's national agency for disease control and prevention, on Wednesday morning.

Schleswig-Holstein state's justice ministry is turning a youth detention centre into a forced quarantine site for those who do not isolate themselves when required to.

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