As more aggressive variants spread, the number of new infections has been inching back up, moving the country further from targets Merkel has set for loosening restrictions
Germany plans to extend its coronavirus lockdown until March 28 but some restrictions will be eased starting from March 8, Focus Online reported, citing a draft agreement for talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and leader of the 16 federal states.
The draft document, seen by Reuters, states that starting from March 8 a maximum of five people from two households, excluding children younger than 14, will be allowed to meet, up from a maximum of two people under current rules.
Flower and book stores, garden centres, tatoo and nail parlours as well as massage salons will also be allowed to reopen.
Merkel is due to discuss lockdown options with the heads of the state on Wednesday, as coronavirus cases in Germany reached more than 2.4 million.
As more aggressive variants spread, the number of new infections has been inching back up, moving the country further from targets Merkel has set for loosening curbs. Her coronavirus cabinet, which includes Scholz, met on Monday to prepare for a critical meeting with state leaders on Wednesday.
Merkel opened the door to the move last week, saying testing could create a “buffer” to allow for opening above her target of 35 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days. The figure rose to 65.8 on Monday, according to the RKI public health institute.
Germany’s outbreak receded steadily after peaking just before Christmas, but the downward trend has been halted for around two weeks, prompting fears that more virulent strains of the disease could trigger another surge in cases.
While some children have returned to schools and hairdressers were allowed to reopen on Monday, most of Germany’s lockdown restrictions remain in place. With the pandemic-weary public growing restless ahead of national elections, some officials are keen to ease the strain, while others are more cautious.
Merkel and the state premiers are set to agree on a broad extension of current lockdown measures until the end of this month, including shuttered non-essential stores, restaurants, gyms and cultural venues, Business Insider magazine reported Monday, citing government sources it did not identify by name.
Moreover, with the country’s inoculation campaign slowly ramping up, the country’s STIKO vaccination committee is poised to reconsider its decision not to recommend AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people 65 and older.
“There will be a new updated recommendation very soon,” Thomas Mertens, head of the committee, said over the weekend. Last month, Germany decided to keep its recommendation for the vaccine to be administered only to people between the ages of 18 and 64, saying there were insufficient data on its effectiveness for older recipients.