Germany plans to extend lockdown until March 14: draft document


FILE PHOTO: A general view shows an almost empty Friedrichstrasse boulevard, one of the city's best known shopping zones, during lockdown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Berlin, Germany, February 5, 2021. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany plans to extend restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus until March 14, a draft agreement for talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of the 16 federal states on Wednesday showed.

The number of new daily infections in Germany has been falling, leading some regional leaders to push for a timetable to ease the lockdown, but concerns are growing about the impact of more infectious strains of the virus on case numbers.

"We have a highly fragile situation," Winfried Kretschmann, Greens premier of the southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, told Spiegel Online. "We can see in other countries, such as Portugal, how quickly the tide can turn."

The draft document for the talks, which start in the afternoon, says that hairdressers could reopen under strict conditions from March 1. The draft is subject to change.

Merkel has made clear that primary schools and nurseries will take priority in any easing. The draft agreement said that individual states can decide on how to re-start classes.

"If the infection figures continue to fall reliably, the highest priority is clearly on the youngest children," said Kretschmann.

Merkel has in the past also made clear she wants a seven-day incidence of 50 cases per 100,000 people to be the benchmark for restrictions to be lifted. That number currently stands at 68, according to data published by the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases on Wednesday.

Germany reported 8,072 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday and a further 813 deaths, bringing the total death toll to 62,969.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Maria Sheahan)

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