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Merkel to discuss tighter lockdown with German states on Sunday

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss with state leaders on Sunday tightening lockdown restrictions to stem a rise in coronavirus infections, with school and shop closures on the agenda, according to people familiar with the matter.

Germany has been in partial lockdown for six weeks, with bars and restaurants closed. Some regions have already imposed tougher measures.

The discussions on Sunday will include whether shops should be closed before the Christmas holiday and the timing of such a move, the people told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We must take steps in the coming days that are very far-reaching and very hard-hitting,” German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told members of his Social Democratic party at an online event.

Germany, which has Europe’s largest economy, was more successful than many European countries in keeping the pandemic under control in the first wave in March and April. But it has been struggling to turn the tide in the second wave with what has been dubbed a “lockdown lite”.

Daily new infections have climbed to 28,438, while the daily death toll was 496, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.

Opponents of lockdown measures have regularly protested in German cities over curbs. On Saturday police in Frankfurt and Dresden were enforcing a ban on such demonstrations. Police in Frankfurt tweeted that they were ready with water cannons to break up a gathering on the city’s main shopping street.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the RND newspaper group on Saturday that hospital intensive care units were beginning to be stretched to their limits and that Germany could not wait until after Christmas to react.

Merkel has favored stricter pan-German measures but was unable to get agreement from the nation’s 16 states.

But some states have since clamped down on their own.

Starting Saturday, a night curfew will be in force in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, except for people going to work and essential reasons.

Since Wednesday, people in Bavaria have been allowed to leave home only for essential reasons.

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