Berlin - Following a conference between Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Germany's 16 states on Sunday morning, government officials announced a much stricter lockdown from Wednesday, 16 December to 10 January.
Chancellor Merkel said stricter measures were unavoidable in light of the rising number of corona cases and deaths. "We are forced to act and are acting now," she said. The Robert Koch Institute, the government's infectious disease office, has been reporting around 500 deaths connected to Covid-19 per day for over a week now.
The chancellor said that the partial lockdown in place since the beginning of November has "not been enough."
Berlin's mayor Michael Müller (SPD) called the measures "drastic for everyone involved": families, businesspeople, cultural institutions. He said health trumped all other considerations. "Health protection is the be-all and end-all."
Below are the key points of the agreement reached on Sunday. Each German state - including the city-state of Berlin - must still formally pass new regulations to make the lockdown reality.
Private gatherings remain restricted to five people over age 14 from two households. From 24 to 26 December, individual states will be able to relax this rule slightly – by allowing the two-household restriction to be lifted but the authorities ask people to limit gatherings to close relatives.
New Years. On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, there will be a Germany-wide ban on gatherings and assembly. Municipalities are free to impose a ban on the use of fireworks but the sale of fireworks has been banned nationwide.
Shops. Most retail outlets must close their doors from Wednesday, 16 December. Shops and markets selling basic necessities can remain open: Grocery stores, drug stores and outdoor food markets as well as pharmacies, medical supply stores and banks are exempt. Gas stations, garages and bike repair shops can open, as can post offices, newsagents, bookshops, pet supply shops, launderettes, dry cleaners and food wholesalers. All other shops and markets must close until at least 10 January - including DIY/hardware stores. Christmas tree vendors are allowed to remain open. Body-related services must close i.e. hairdressers, massage practices and similar businesses. Medically oriented practices such as opticians, hearing-aid shops, podiatrists and physiotherapists may continue to operate.
Education. Schools and daycare centres must close on Wednesday. Emergency childcare will be offered for the children of essential workers – though the Berlin government is now saying this will probably not be the case in the capital city. Germany-wide, Christmas holidays will go from 16 December to 10 January.
Offices. Business should, where possible, either declare company holidays or offer generous work-from-home solutions in the period up to 10 January. However, this won't be a regulation – just a request.
Religion. Services are permitted but subject to conditions such as social distancing, face masks and a ban on singing. Participants may be required to register.
Care homes. Protective measures will be ramped up at old people's and nursing homes.
Travel. It won't be banned, but politicians are appealing to people to refrain from non-essential domestic and international travel. The 10-day quarantine rule for arrivals from risk areas remains but this can be shortened to five days if people can produce a negative corona test.
Financial support. Aid for affected businesses and the self-employed will be extended. The "bridge aid" already implemented by the federal government to cover fixed operating costs will be increased to a maximum of €500,000 per month.