Germany to tighten Covid-19 restrictions before New Year

People queue to get vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) during the annual Christmas campaign of German musician Frank Zander to homeless and people in need, in Berlin, Germany on Dec 14, 2021

BERLIN - Germany will introduce new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 before New Year's Eve, including limiting private gatherings for vaccinated people to a maximum of 10 people, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday (Dec 21).

Stopping well short of a nationwide lockdown, Scholz also agreed with the premiers of Germany's 16 states to close clubs and discos and to only allow big events, including football matches, without spectators.

"We cannot and must not close our eyes to the next wave," Scholz told reporters after the talks. "Corona won't take a Christmas break," he said, adding it was only a matter of weeks before the Omicron variant became dominant in Germany.

Germany will also step up its booster vaccination campaign. Around 70.4 per cent of Germany's population of about 83 million have been fully vaccinated with 32.6 per cent having received a booster shot.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases had recommended stricter measures, including introducing "maximum contact restrictions" immediately and restricting travel to what was absolutely necessary.

The city of Hamburg has imposed restrictions starting Dec 24. Restaurants and bars must close by 11pm The curfew will be 1am for New Year's Eve.

The RKI reported 23,428 new infections on Tuesday, and 462 deaths, taking Germany's total to 108,814. The seven-day incidence rate — the number of people per 100,000 infected over the last week — dropped to 306.4 from 316 the previous day.

Experts have also warned that the Omicron variant could cause disruption to emergency services as well as electricity and water supplies. Hospitals could face a double-whammy of a wave of seriously ill patients and massive staff shortages due to breakthrough infections among doctors and nurses.

Scholz will meet state premiers again on Jan 7 to discuss the Covid-19 situation.

READ MORE: Germany facing fifth Covid-19 wave as Omicron cases surge