Germany's Merkel proposes 3-stage plan to lift virus curbs - sources

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a news conference following a virtual summit with G7 leaders at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/Pool

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants a staggered plan to lift coronavirus restrictions that is linked to increased testing, she told a meeting of her Christian Democrats leadership committee according to two participants.

Merkel wants to reopen parts of society in three stages, starting with expanding the number of personal contacts, followed by schools and vocational schools and thirdly sports groups, restaurants and culture, according to participants.

She told the meeting it was important that steps to lift restrictions did not lead to renewed setbacks by causing virus variants to spread further.

Germany has extend restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus until March 7, though elementary schools and nurseries started reopening in 10 German states on Monday and hair salons are due to open their doors again next week.

The number of new daily infections has stagnated over the past week with the seven-day incidence rate hovering at around 60 cases per 100,000. On Monday, Germany reported 4,369 new infections and 62 further deaths.

Starting on Tuesday, Merkel's chief of staff Helge Braun will convene a working group to propose a concept for the next meeting of the federal government with state premiers on March 3, the sources said.

Health Minister Jens Spahn also told the meeting he wants to start administering vaccines at family doctors' practices as soon as 3-5 million doses are delivered weekly.

Production problems and delayed deliveries have frustrated Germany's rollout of vaccines so far. As of Sunday, just over 3.3 million people had received at least one dose of vaccine, equivalent to 4% of the population.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Paul Carrel)

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