Minimum contact: Germany extends lockdown until end January

A sign ‘Corona is dangerous’ is seen in the city centre of Krefeld Germany 4 January 2021

Citizens living in regions with an incidence of more than 200 new infections for every 100,000 inhabitants won't be allowed to leave their usual place of residence within a radius of 15 kilometers.

Due to high COVID-19 infection and death rates, Germany entered a hard lockdown including closures of non-essential shops and schools as well as bars, restaurants and leisure facilities, initially until January 10.

It means that across Germany, non-essential shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, gyms and theaters will continue to remain closed.

Germany's 83 million residents will receive more than 130 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, enough for everybody who needs to receive the shots, Spahn said.

Germany's state and federal governments agreed on Tuesday to extend and expand coronavirus lockdown rules in the country. Germany's latest lockdown took effect December 16 after a partial shutdown starting in early November failed to reduce the number of daily new coronavirus infections. The country's disease control center says it expects to have a reliable picture of what is going on only from January 17, Merkel said.

Seven-day infection rates are now at 140 per 100,000 people - well over the target of 50 that politicians have agreed would be safe enough to ease the curbs.

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While the number of dailyinfections is starting to dip in Germany, deaths from COVID-19 have risen in recent weeks to around a thousand per day.

Merkel said the emergence of the new variant in England is "one reason more" to keep up restrictions.

Germany had vaccinated almost 317,000 people by Tuesday, just over a week into the campaign.

She said that it "is in Germany's interests" since the country is surrounded by other European Union member nations and in the middle of the European Union trade zone that relies on open borders. "So we don't want national solo efforts".

Infection rates had to be sustainably reduced, Spahn said, adding: "That is better than loosening too early and then, perhaps in as little as a few weeks, facing new and hard questions".

Although Merkel's popularity remains high and a large majority of Germans are broadly satisfied with her handling of the pandemic, analysts say those differences also undermined faith in the shutdown.

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