Bild: Germany’s Merkel wants to extend lockdown until February 15

Germany mulls tighter shutdown as virus variants fuel fears

Merkel and state leaders pushed through a longer and revamped lockdown on Tuesday against the backdrop of growing discontent in Germany, especially among parents faced with the challenges of both homeschooling and working from home as well as businesses fearing bankruptcy.

Medical masks, and not simple cotton ones, will be made mandatory on public transportation and in stores, and companies must let employees work from home until March 15 where possible.

More could be done to keep non-essential workers out of the office and off public transport, they said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a press conference following a video conference with the Prime Ministers of the federal states discussing new measures to bring down the numbers of Covid-19 infections on January 19. "We must act now".

They will all remain closed until February 14 now. The enhanced measures came after the German government was warned about the danger of the new variants of the virus.

Due to concerns over the latest variants discovered in South Africa and Britain.

"We urgently need further relief", Johna said.

"If we had a situation like London, then we wouldn't be talking about schools anymore but about ambulances and overflowing hospitals", she said.

Germany survived the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic relatively well, but a second wave hit Europe's biggest economy hard.

New infections have soared far above the 50 per 100,000 people incidence rate threshold set by the government.

Germany is extending its current national lockdown until mid-February and introducing new, tougher measures as the country's death toll continues to rise.

The country has added over 16-hundred new deaths on Tuesday alone.

Experts have been alarmed by data showing that Germans appeared to be moving around nearly as normal this winter, unlike in the spring when a shutdown appeared to have caused a drastic drop in mobility.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose 11,369 to 2.05 million, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.

RKI chief Lothar Wieler has meanwhile pleaded for rigorous implementation of curbs that have already been ordered, saying that there were too many exceptions allowed.

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