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Germany introduces new restrictions amid rise in cases

Germany introduces new restrictions amid rise in cases

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Germany has entered a hard lockdown, closing schools and non-essential businesses in an attempt to stop a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections.

The measures will be in place until 10 January. Christmas will see a slight easing, with one household allowed to host up to four close family members.

The country reported 952 additional deaths and 23,427 cases on Wednesday.

Other European countries have tightened restrictions ahead of Christmas, with France introducing a night-time curfew.

Under Germany’s new measures, only essential businesses such as supermarkets and banks will be allowed to remain open. Restaurants, bars and leisure centres have been shut since November and some areas of the country had imposed their own lockdowns.

Hair salons are among the businesses which must close, while drinking alcohol in public places, such as popular mulled wine stalls, is forbidden. Companies are being urged to allow employees to work from home.

Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, which is overseeing the Covid-19 response, said the situation was “more serious than it has ever been”.

“The number of cases is higher than ever and they keep rising. There is the danger that the situation will keep getting worse and it will get harder and harder to deal with the pandemic and its consequences,” he said.

It comes as the German government said it was pressuring the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to speed up approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was developed in Germany. It has already been approved by regulators in the UK and the US.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said he wanted the vaccine to be approved before Christmas. A meeting by the EMA to discuss whether the vaccine should be rolled out around the bloc has been brought forward from 29 December to next Monday.

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