German government seeks law change to take back pandemic control from states

The European Central Bank (ECB) and the skyline with its financial district are photographed during sunset as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Frankfurt, Germany, April 12, 2021. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's federal government will ask parliament for temporary powers to enforce a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, after several regions failed to impose agreed curbs to bring a third wave of the pandemic under control, a government source said.

With infections rising rapidly in some areas, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government is pressing for a change to the Infection Protection Act to enable Berlin to enforce restrictions under certain scenarios.

According to the draft law presented to the cabinet on Tuesday, a mandatory nationwide "emergency brake" will be introduced if the number of new infections per 100,000 residents in a district or city exceeds 100 for three consecutive days within a week, according to the source.

This includes curfews between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., as well as limiting private gatherings to one household plus one other person.

All but essential shops will be required to close, while the opening of cultural and recreational facilities such as theatres, museums and zoos will be prohibited.

Schools will have to return to distance learning if the virus incidence rises above 200 per 100,000 for three consecutive days.

The bill must now be approved by the lower and upper houses of parliament. The change to the law will only apply until June 30.

Germany is grappling with a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus and Merkel and several regional leaders have called for tougher curbs to prevent the health system from becoming overwhelmed, while the country tries to vaccinate more people.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 10,810 and the death toll increased by 294, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed. The seven-day virus incidence per 100,000 rose to 140.9 from 136.4 on Monday.

(Reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Caroline Copley; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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