Germany extends Covid-19 curbs as infections threaten infrastructure
BERLIN - Germany on Monday (Jan 24) extended its current pandemic measures as the experts panel appointed by the government has warned that the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant could bring critical infrastructure in Europe's biggest economy to a breaking point.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he had agreed with the heads of the federal states to extend restrictions such as limiting private gatherings to 10 people and requiring proof of booster vaccination or a negative test at restaurants.
"Now it's time to stay on course," said Mr Scholz after a meeting on Monday.
The government will reconsider relaxing or tightening the measures in case of a very steep rise or decline in infection numbers, Mr Scholz added.
Germany on Monday reported 63,393 new Covid-19 cases, an 86 % jump from a week ago, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said earlier this month he expected the infection wave to peak in mid-February.
Mr Scholz and the heads of states also agreed to prioritise the use of Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and to increase testing capacity to cope with rising infections.
However, subsidised PCR tests will be applied only for vulnerable groups and staff in clinics and nursing homes.
In Berlin, where the rate of cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last seven days hit 1,465 - second highest in Germany - compulsory school attendance will be suspended until the end of February to accommodate parents worried about sending their children to classrooms amid rising infections, Mayor Franziska Giffey said.
Mr Scholz said the next meeting with states' leaders to discuss possible coronavirus measures is scheduled to take place on Feb 16.