Germany extends virus curbs to January 10: Merkel

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Germany will keep its cultural and sporting facilities as well as restaurants and bars shut until January 10, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday, extending shutdown measures to curb transmission of the coronavirus.

"If the situation continues to develop as in the last days, we will meet again on January 4 and the states are extending the directive (for a ) to January 10," she said after meeting regional leaders of Germany's 16 states.

During a meeting a week ago, Merkel and state premiers had agreed to stretch an ongoing shutdown which began in November through to the "beginning of January" unless new infection numbers dropped dramatically, but did not specify a date.

With an eye on applications by BioNTech-Pfizer as well as Moderna for the use of their COVID-19 vaccines in Europe, Merkel said 70 million doses in total from both types of vaccines can be delivered in the first quarter of next year if they are given authorisation.

But that will not be enough for Germany's 80-million-strong population, she said, stressing that the country would need to "get through winter" without huge stocks of doses.

A month into the new round of shutdowns in Germany, the number of new infections has plateaued over the past two weeks, with October's brought to a halt.

But in order to ease restrictions, the infection rate would have to come down to below 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants per week—a level where officials can effectively carry out their trace and isolate strategy, Merkel has repeatedly said.

Germany recorded another 17,270 new infections and 487 deaths over the last 24 hours, according to the disease control agency RKI.

© 2020 AFP

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