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Merkel seeks limits on gatherings, alcohol restrictions against COVID-19


Berlin –   German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking agreement on stricter measures against the coronavirus.

Merkel is seeking such things as limits on gatherings and restrictions on alcohol sales, as she prepares to meet with the leaders of the country’s 16 states on Tuesday.

The talks, which have been a steady fixture in Germany’s attempts to coordinate a response to the pandemic, come as the number of new infections recorded over a 24-period once again surpassed 2,000.

Merkel told a meeting of party officials on Monday that she was alarmed at a recent rise in the number of cases and wanted everything to be done to stop it becoming exponential, according to dpa’s sources.

In a draft set of proposals seen by dpa ahead of Tuesday’s videoconference, the federal government lays out proposals to limit celebrations and gatherings in private homes to 25 people, while similar gatherings in public areas would be limited to 50 people.

It remains to be negotiated whether this would be a blanket rule, or whether it would only apply to areas where the virus is spreading at a particularly high rate.

German medical officials have argued repeatedly that gatherings such as weddings and family reunions are a key source of new infections.

Merkel’s government is also seeking to limit alcohol sales in areas with particularly high rates of infection.

And guests at bars and restaurants could face a fine of 50 euros (58.40 dollars) if they violate hygiene rules, for example by not providing on arrival correct contact details, which are used to track possible chains of infection.

Merkel and the 16 state premiers will also discuss ways to support hospitals and general health practitioners in dealing with flu patients during the autumn and winter seasons.

The government’s draft paper generally appeals to the population to exercise caution as the summer ends and the nights draw in.

“Due to falling temperatures, the increased time spent in enclosed spaces during the autumn and winter period, and the looming flu season, we have to be particularly careful,” the document says.

The Robert Koch Institute, the country’s official disease control body, said the caseload in the pandemic so far had increased by 2,089 to reach 287,421 on Tuesday.

The death toll stood at 9,471, up by 11 on the previous day.

The daily rise in case numbers was still a far cry from the levels seen in late March and early April, of over 6,000.

However, infections have been creeping up again in recent months after travel was relaunched for the summer tourism season, children returned to schools, and the sweeping restrictions introduced earlier in the year were eased in favour of widespread mask rules and a strategy focusing on contact-tracing.

Germany’s state governments are largely responsible for introducing and easing restrictions in their regions in response to the pandemic.

The nationwide lockdown launched back in March plunged the German economy into recession. (dpa/NAN)

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