(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to tighten Germany’s lockdown as she fears a more contagious coronavirus variant may cause infections to spiral out of control.
Merkel wants to meet with regional leaders soon to discuss additional curbs aimed at decisively lowering the infection rate, a government official said. There is no consensus with the state premiers yet about such 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 happen on Jan. 20, it wrote.
Europe’s largest economy is struggling to contain infections, which have climbed to nearly 2 million cases, amid concerns that a virus variant that has spread from the U.K. to Ireland will cause cases in Germany to skyrocket further.
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, adding to pressure on overstretched hospitals, and the death toll has almost tripled.
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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.
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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