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Germany’s state leaders are due to meet the chancellor, Angela Merkel, to decide on the next stage in the country’s coronavirus restrictions, and how to organise the Christmas break.
The discussion via video link on Wednesday will include whether or not to start the Christmas holidays earlier, as well as a proposal to encourage people to self-quarantine ahead of meet-ups with relatives.
Proposals on gatherings suggest relaxing the rules between 21 December and 3 January to allow friends and family to meet members from two separate households, of a maximum of up to 10 people, not including children under the age of 14.
While there is widespread consensus that shops and schools should stay open, tighter restrictions are being considered such as limiting shops to one customer for every 25 sq metres of space, and introducing obligatory mask wearing for school pupils from the 7th grade upwards.
Merkel is pushing for stricter rules than the leaders of many of the Länder have put forward, proposing a holiday starting on 16 December, rather than three days later.
The meeting will take place as Germany recorded its highest daily death rate, which rose by 410 in 24 hours. Almost 14,800 people have died from the virus. The registered infection rate appears to be stabilising, with 18,633 new infections since Tuesday. But it is still too high if the health system is going to cope at least into next spring, by which time the effects of a vaccination programme are expected to have made an impact on the spread of the virus.
An appeal is expected to be made to employers to allow employees, where possible, to work from home between 21 December and 3 January.
But if schools were forced to close early there is still a lack of clarity over the legal rights of employees who cannot work from home but would have to take time off for childcare.
According to a survey by the polling institute Civey, a majority of Germans support the proposals to reduce private gatherings to a maximum of 10 people. A total of 57% were in favour of the government setting a limit, while 36.5% said it was inappropriate for the state to meddle in private gatherings.
State leaders will also discuss with the government proposals to restrict passenger numbers in trains, so that in future only window seats would be reservable, requiring the deployment of more trains. Deutsche Bahn, the national carrier, has reported losses of €5.6bn (£5bn) this year.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Germany to decide next round of Covid restrictions | World news