Germany will impose an emergency month-long lockdown that includes the closure of restaurants, gyms and theatres to reverse a spike in coronavirus cases that risks overwhelming hospitals, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.
“We need to take action now,” she said, adding the situation was “very serious”.
Effective on November 2, private gatherings will be limited to 10 people from a maximum of two households. Restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, pools and gyms will be shut and concerts cancelled.
People will be asked not to travel for private, non-essential reasons, and overnight stays in hotels will be available only for necessary business trips.
Merkel said the goal is to limit the economic impact of the measures to a bare minimum and to keep schools and daycare centres open.
Germany was widely praised for keeping infection and death rates below those of many of its neighbours in the first phase of the crisis but is now in the midst of a second wave. Cases rose by 14,964 to 464,239 in the last 24 hours, Germany’s infectious diseases control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, said on Wednesday.
Deaths jumped by 85 to 10,183, fuelling fears about the health system after Merkel warned it could hit breaking point if infections continue to spiral.
“Our health system can still cope with this challenge today, but at this speed of infections it will reach the limits of its capacity within weeks,” Merkel said.
Merkel added that health authorities were able to trace the origin of only 25 percent of outbreaks, which means it was difficult to say which aspects of social life were driving the second wave.