Merkel weighs tougher German lockdown

Merkel weighs tougher German lockdown

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing to tighten Germany’s lockdown, as the country’s death toll rose by more than 1,500 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Merkel aims to meet with regional leaders soon to discuss additional curbs amid fears that a more contagious variant may cause infections to spiral out of control, a government official said.

The number of daily fatalities jumped by 1,589 in the 24 hours through Friday morning, taking the total to more than 45,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The new curbs may include curfews, and the complete shutdown of all schools and public transport, Bild newspaper reported Thursday, without identifying the source of its information. The meeting with the regional premiers might take place on Jan. 20, it said.

"We must do something" and "mobilize forces" to stop new variants from spreading in Germany, Bild quoted Merkel as telling party colleagues.

Europe’s largest economy is struggling to contain infections amid concerns that the variant that has spread from the U.K. to Ireland will cause cases in Germany to skyrocket.

Despite weeks of stricter curbs, the contagion rate remains about three times higher than a government target. The total number of infections has doubled since the end of November, passing 2 million on Thursday and rising to 2,015,235 as of Friday morning, according to JHU.

Merkel agreed with regional premiers this month to impose tougher limits on movement. They also sharpened restrictions on private gatherings and extended lockdown measures - including the partial closing of schools and the shuttering of non-essential stores - until at least Jan. 31. A meeting to review the measures was originally planned for Jan. 25.

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