Merkel wants German lockdown to continue until March – sources

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BERLIN, Feb 9 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to keep restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus in place until at least March 1, participants in a meeting of her own conservative parliamentary group told Reuters on Tuesday.

Merkel and leaders of Germany’s 16 states are due to hold talks on Wednesday to discuss whether steps can be taken to ease lockdown measures which have been in place since November and were tightened in mid-December.

“We have to wait until March 1,” participants in the meeting cited Merkel as saying. “My goal would be not to have to correct steps to open up again with further closing steps.”

Primary schools, nurseries, hairdressers and retail would take priority in any easing but the overall aim was to avoid another lockdown, Merkel said.

Daniel Guenther, premier of the state of Schleswig-Holstein and a senior member of Merkel’s conservative party, openly challenged Merkel’s plea.

He said first steps to ease lockdown measures should be possible this month, and that he had received support for his stance from other state premiers.

While the number of new daily infections has been falling, concerns are growing about the impact of more infectious strains of the virus on case numbers.

Merkel told participants at the meeting that the proportion of coronavirus infections caused by a variant first detected in Britain was doubling every 10 days, and that this could soon become the dominant variant in Germany.

She also urged that a seven-day incidence of 50 cases per 100,000 people should be the benchmark for restrictions to be lifted, participants said.

Germany reported 3,379 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and a further 481 deaths. The nationwide seven-day incidence was 72.8 cases per 100,000. (Reporting by Andrea Rinke and Michael Nienaber; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Madeline Chambers and Kevin Liffey)

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