Germany to tighten COVID-19 restrictions before New Year

2 minute read

People queue to get vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during the annual Christmas campaign of German musician Frank Zander to homeless and people in need, in Berlin, Germany, December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

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BERLIN, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Germany will introduce new measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 before New Year's Eve, including limiting private gatherings for vaccinated people to a maximum of 10 people, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Stopping well short of a nationwide lockdown, Scholz also agreed with the premiers of Germany's 16 states to close clubs and discos and to only allow big events, including soccer matches, without spectators.

"We cannot and must not close our eyes to the next wave," Scholz told reporters after the talks. "Corona won't take a Christmas break," he said, adding it was only a matter of weeks before the Omicron variant became dominant in Germany.

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Germany will also step up its booster vaccination campaign. Around 70.4% of Germany's population of about 83 million have been fully vaccinated with 32.6% having received a booster shot.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases had recommended stricter measures, including introducing "maximum contact restrictions" immediately and restricting travel to what was absolutely necessary.

The city of Hamburg has imposed restrictions starting Dec. 24. Restaurants and bars must close by 11 p.m. The curfew will be 1 a.m. for New Year's Eve.

The RKI reported 23,428 new infections on Tuesday, and 462 deaths, taking Germany's total to 108,814. The seven-day incidence rate - the number of people per 100,000 infected over the last week - dropped to 306.4 from 316 the previous day.

Experts have also warned that the Omicron variant could cause disruption to emergency services as well as electricity and water supplies. Hospitals could face a double-whammy of a wave of seriously ill patients and massive staff shortages due to breakthrough infections among doctors and nurses.

Scholz will meet state premiers again on Jan. 7 to discuss the COVID-19 situation.

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Reporting by Madeline Chambers, Sarah Marsh, Hans Seidenstuecker and Miranda Murray; Editing by William Maclean and Lisa Shumaker

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