EXPLAINED: These are Germany's tough new lockdown measures
Germany is to order the closure of schools, hairdressers and shops from Wednesday until January 10th in a bid to slow down the coronavirus spread.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of Germany's 16 states met on Sunday morning for an emergency meeting due to the deteriorating coronavirus situation.
They agreed on tougher lockdown measures to be put in place from Wednesday December 16th until at least January 10th. They include shop, hairdresser and school closures as well as a ban on the sale of fireworks on New Year's Eve and drinking alcohol in public. There are also changes to the Christmas rules.
German states are free to put in place stricter measures depending on infection rates. Bavaria is set to put in place a night-time curfew from 9pm to 5am.
Here's a rundown of the measures:
CHRISTMAS: private gatherings indoors and outdoors are limited to a maximum of five people from two households (not including under 14s).
During the Christmas period, from December 24th to 26th, the states can relax this rule slightly – by allowing a household to invite four people who belong to the "immediate family circle" (plus children under 14 who are not counted in the total) to join them – even if this is more than two households.
According to the final paper, "immediate family" includes: "spouses, partners and partners in a non-marital partnership as well as siblings, sibling's children and their respective household members". States are expected to draw up the final rules on this depending on the infection situation there.
Merkel, however, pleaded for a "protection week": before family reunions, contacts should be reduced to the absolute minimum for five to seven days.
The government and states had previously agreed to allow a maximum of 10 people to meet (without a limit on households) from December 23rd to January 1st. This is not the case anymore.
NEW YEAR'S EVE FIREWORKS BAN: On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, there will be a nationwide ban on gatherings.
Merkel and the states have also now decided that there will be general a ban on the sale of fireworks this year. Setting off fireworks will not be banned but authorities are asking that people refrain from doing so.
Local governments will also ban fireworks in certain public places.
SHOPS TO CLOSE: Non-essential retailers will have to close their doors from December 16th under the plans.
All shops for daily needs, i.e. supermarkets and drugstores, as well as pharmacies, medical supply stores and banks will be exempt. Petrol stations and garages will also be allowed to open, as will post offices, laundrettes and dry cleaners. All other shops will be ordered to close until January 10th. Christmas tree markets can remain open.
HAIRDRESSERS Personal services like hairdressers, beauty salons and tattoo parlous will have to be closed until January 10th. Hairdressers have been allowed to remain open up until this point, but not under these tougher measures.
SCHOOLS: Schools and childcare centres (Kitas) are also to close from Wednesday, which is earlier than planned. Emergency care is to be offered, though. All in all, this means that the Christmas holidays will be extended everywhere from December 16th to January 10th. Schools can choose to offer lessons online.
The Chancellor's Office had already discussed this action at the end of November, but the measure failed to be put in place due to opposition from the majority of the states.
CURRENT CLOSURES REMAIN: Unsurprisingly, the measures already in place, including closed restaurants, bars, cafes, cultural and leisure facilities, are to be extended until January 10th. Restaurants can still offer takeaway services.
Germany has been struggling to bring down the number of cases since the partial lockdown was put in place on November 2nd.
The below chart by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control,shows the daily new confirmed Covid-19 cases in Germany during the second wave compared to other European countries.
BAN ON ALCOHOL: There will be a ban on alcohol consumption in public places. Recently, there had been concerns about people gathering to drink at Glühwein (mulled wine) stands which have popped up across Germany.
COMPANIES URGED TO CLOSE: Wherever possible, companies should either grant holidays or offer generous working from home solutions until January 10th. However, this is not a regulation, it's a request.
NO SINGING AT RELIGIOUS SERVICES: Church services are permitted, but subject to conditions such as distance, mandatory masks and no singing allowed.
APPEAL NOT TO TRAVEL: Travel will not be banned, but an appeal is being made to the public to refrain from non-essential domestic and international travel.
The quarantine rule for arrivals from foreign risk areas remains in place. People who arrive from a risk zone have to quarantine for 10 days, but this can be ended with a negative coronavirus test after five days at the earliest. The test is no longer free for people arriving from risk zones.
PROTECTION FOR ELDERLY PEOPLE: Protective measures will be increased in old people's and nursing homes to help stem the spread of the virus there.
AID FOR BUSINESSES: Financial support for affected businesses and self-employed people will be extended by the government and states.
We added information on the Christmas rules in a later version of this story.
There may be state differences on these restrictions so check your local regional rules.