Published: Thu, January 21, 2021

Germany's Merkel, state leaders ponder tougher virus rules

Germany's Merkel, state leaders ponder tougher virus rules

The chancellor also said that firms will have to let their employees work from home as often as possible.

New infections have been decreasing in recent days and pressure on intensive care units has eased slightly, but virologists are anxious about the possible spread of more infectious variants of the virus.

Merkel and state leaders pushed through a longer and revamped lockdown on Tuesday against the backdrop of growing discontent in Germany, especially among parents faced with the challenges of both homeschooling and working from home as well as businesses fearing bankruptcy.

Medical masks, i.e. surgical masks or FFP2 higher security masks, may now be required for public transport or for important shops such as supermarkets that have been permitted to remain open.

"There is much more room for manoeuvre", said Mueller, adding states aimed to get employees to have to justify why employees had to travel to work.

"All our efforts to contain the virus are threatened by a serious danger", Merkel told reporters, referring to the new strain that has sparked a spike in cases in Britain.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said earlier the measures so far had brought about a "flattening of the infections curve", noting that the number of patients in intensive care had fallen slightly.

Merkel said Germany would use an European Union summit on Thursday to call for "synchronised measures" to rein in the spread of the new strains.

"The lockdown should have brought some effects already, but we are not seeing that", she said.

"If we had a situation like London, then we wouldn't be talking about schools anymore but about ambulances and overflowing hospitals", she said.

New infections have soared far above the 50 per 100,000 people incidence rate threshold set by the government.

The country has added over 16-hundred new deaths on Tuesday alone. The number of deaths was up 989 at 47,622.

Experts have been disturbed by data showing that this winter, unlike in the spring when a shutdown seemed to have triggered a dramatic drop in mobility. Germany "must move quickly" getting that down to 50.0 per 100,000 people.

The mobility of Germans was only 15 percent below that of a year ago, according to data from mobile phone signals analysed by disease control agency Robert Koch Institute and Berlin's Humboldt University.

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