Bavarian premier calls for unified rules to contain coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: A member of the medical staff walks past a sign on a door to an intensive care unit at the St.-Antonius-Hospital Eschweiler, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Eschweiler, Germany, September 25, 2020. The sign reads "Keep two meters distance". REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany must agree on nationwide rules to contain the spread of the coronavirus and prevent infections from getting out of control, the premier of Bavaria said on Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states on Wednesday, Markus Soeder said the next four weeks would be crucial for whether Germans could celebrate a relaxed Christmas.

“We must now set the course jointly, otherwise there is a danger that it could get out of control,” he told a news conference following a meeting of Bavaria’s cabinet.

Compulsory mask-wearing should be extended to more public places, such as lifts, while celebrations should be smaller and better controlled, Soeder said.

By European standards, Germany has experienced relatively low infection and death rates so far during the pandemic, but new daily cases have jumped in recent weeks and Merkel has warned there could be 19,200 infections per day if current trends continue.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 4,122 on Tuesday to 329,453, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

Germany’s states have faced criticism for a patchwork of unilateral measures to try and contain a second wave, including banning overnight stays by tourists from places with high infection rates and imposing some curbs on evening entertainment.

Soeder said Bavaria planned to second 2,000 more civil servants and police officers to its health authorities to strengthen its test and trace capabilities. It has also secured options for 10 million rapid antigen tests.

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Giles Elgood