Merkel wants to close all bars, restaurants to halt virus spread

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to agree at a meeting with leaders of the states on Wednesday to close all restaurants and bars from Nov. 4 in a bid to curb coronavirus infections but keep schools and nurseries open, newspaper Bild reported. 

It cited a draft resolution as saying Merkel wanted to agree with the 16 premiers of the states to close fitness studios, casinos and cinemas along with theatres, opera houses and concert venues but allow shops to remain open if they implement hygiene measures and limit customer numbers.

The report said the federal government wanted to provide financial aid to firms affected by closures, adding that a concept for this would be presented later on Wednesday.

It also said that people should only be able to go out in public with members of their own household and one other household. It said people would be punished if they did not respect that but did not give further details.

Merkel is expected to push for new measures in crisis talks with Germany’s regional leaders Wednesday, as the number of coronavirus cases soars and hospital beds fill up.

The proposed new restrictions would include closing restaurants and bars and putting strict limits on private and public gatherings while keeping schools, daycares and shops open, according to the best-selling Bild daily.

“We need quick and decisive steps to break the new wave of infections,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on the eve of the closely watched meeting between Merkel and the premiers of Germany’s 16 states.

Under the country’s federal system, individual states have the final say on which restrictions to impose, and some less affected regions are likely to bristle at measures that will inflict more economic pain.

The far-left premier of the eastern state of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, has already said he wouldn’t back Merkel’s proposal for a “lockdown light”, as German media are calling it.

Germany coped relatively well with the first coronavirus wave earlier in the year but numbers have risen rapidly in recent weeks, as they have across the continent.

Germany’s tally of new daily cases now regularly crosses the 10,000 mark, with more than 11,400 new infections reported on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for disease control.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier warned that Germany was seeing “exponential growth” in case numbers and would probably reach “20,000 new infections per day” by the end of the week.

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