Berlin - The leaders of Germany's 16 states will meet per video with Chancellor Angela Merkel Sunday to discuss a more strict lockdown, likely beginning Wednesday, as corona numbers remain high.
The lockdown would last through 10 January though politicians will again meet 4 January to review progress, according to Business Insider Germany. The federal government would prefer an earlier lockdown but the states said it wasn't legally possible before Wednesday. The lockdown will be similar to that from last winter except that DIY and garden centres will have to close this time.
States have agreed that there will be no in-person schooling during the lockdown though states and the federal government have yet to agree on if kids will essentially have vacation or online classes. What will happen with daycares also hasn't yet been decided, the site reported.
Contact restrictions will be adjusted slightly between 24 December and 26 December to allow 10, rather than the current 5, people from two households to meet.
"The way things are shaping up, the hard lockdown will come before Christmas and not just after," Winfried Kretschmann (Bündnis 90-Die Grüne), the head of Baden-Wuerttemberg, said during his party's meeting in Reutlingen, according to newswire dpa. Kretschmann said social and economic life could be shut down as much as possible as early as next week.
A stiffer lockdown, with schools and all-but essential shops closed, was already expected from 28 December to 10 January but politicians are under pressure to act sooner as corona numbers remain stubbornly high. This morning, the Robert Koch Institute said 28,438 new Covid-19 cases had been reported in the last 24 hours, 5,000 more than a week earlier as well as 496 deaths, up from 445 a week earlier.
The numbers are equally as discouraging in Berlin: Officials Saturday reported 1,038 new cases, compared with 1,320 on 5 December and 23 deaths, slightly above the 22 of a week ago.
German finance minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) also reportedly warned of new restrictions "for example, as far as retail is concerned." Scholz, who also doubles as vice chancellor, also left little room for the old timing: "This must happen very quickly now."
Despite widespread expectations that Saturday could be the final shopping day before Christmas, shopping streets and malls did not appear overly crowded.
"Customers were in a good mood, eager to buy the last Christmas presents," said Nike Melchior at Heipl Berlin, a boutique on Schlesische Strasse in Kreuzberg. "A lot of customers asked how long we would still be open for. There was a bit of worry."
She said the street didn't seem fuller than normal.
"I heard that everything will be closed starting Wednesday," said Gundula N., 30, who was doing what she believed to be last-minute shopping at Alexanderplatz. "I'm more careful about how I move around in stores but I'm not really afraid of getting infected while shopping."
But Nils Busch-Petersen, head of the Berlin-Brandenburg retail association, isn't happy.
"We had already prepared to follow the scientific advice and start the lockdown after Christmas," he said. "Retail is still not a place of significant infection. If the government thinks people need to change their behaviour, it needs to address it to the citizens - and not put retailers on the spot."