Merkel Weighs Tougher German Lockdown as Cases Exceed 2 Million

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to tighten Germany’s lockdown as the country’s confirmed virus cases since the start of the pandemic surged past 2 million.

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

There is no consensus yet with the state premiers — who have to agree on such measures in Germany’s federal system — about further restrictions, the person added, asking not to be identified discussing private deliberations.

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

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 further.

Skyrocketing Cases

Despite weeks of stricter curbs, the contagion rate remains more than three times higher than a government target. The total number of infections has doubled since the end of November and rose to 2,002,104 on Thursday, according to latestdata from Johns Hopkins University. The death toll has almost tripled to more than 44,000.

Hospitals in some German states are running out of intensive-care beds, and tighter lockdown rules may be needed to stem the tide of new cases, Lothar Wieler, who heads the country’s Robert Koch Institute public-health agency, warned earlier Thursday.

Read More: Merkel Anxious That U.K.’s Mutated Virus Will Hit Germany Hard

Germany’s high case numbers probably can’t be blamed on the spread of the new variant from the U.K., Wieler said, with monitoring so far indicating the mutation may not yet be widely established in Germany. Rather, the virus is spreading because people aren’t following lockdown rules, Wieler said.

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.

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