German Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional leaders of 16 federal states agreed late Monday to impose a hard lockdown during Easter amid an exponential growth in the number of coronavirus cases in the country, in what is being called a “third wave”.
Shops, grocery stores and other establishments will remain shut from April 1 for five days.
Churches must conduct prayer services online. Food stores will be allowed to open on April 3, Saturday.
The government also decided to apply the hard lockdown “emergency brake” in regions with an incidence value above 100 for a seven-day period.
Germany also extended the current lockdown measures, which includes partial shutdown of non-essential stores, until April 18.
“We are in a very, very serious situation”, Merkel said in a press conference following her meeting with the regional leaders. She said there is a new pandemic caused by a new virus which is more deadly and more infectious.
Several other European countries have also delayed plans for a gradual opening of the economy in the backdrop of the rising coronavirus cases and slower vaccinations.
The Robert Koch Institute reported on Monday that the national seven-day rate of infections climbed to 107 per 100,000 people, which is above the 100-threshold that signals strain on health care establishments.
The government had planned to withdraw the partial lockdown measures applied since March 3 if the average rate of infections remained above 100 for three days in a row.
The number of confirmed cases in Germany on Monday increased by 7,709 to 2,667,225, Deutsche Welle news service reported. The death toll climbed by 50 to 74,714.
The coronavirus vaccine roll-out in Europe has been marred with numerous delays. The latest cause for delay is the concern that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, one of the several in the market, could lead to blood clots in some recipients. Several countries have suspended the vaccine.
Commerzbank Chief Economist Jorg Kramer assumes that the lockdown will remain in force in its current or slightly weakened form until the end of May. Consequently, the bank has discarded its expectation for an early economic recovery and lowered its growth forecast for this year from 4.5 percent to 3.5 percent.
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