Passengers check in at Berlin Brandenburg Airport in Schoenefeld, Germany, March 23, 2021. Germany will extend its COVID-19 lockdown till at least April 18 with even stricter restrictions during the Easter holidays, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced at a press conference in the early hours of Tuesday. (Photo by Stefan Zeitz/Xinhua)
BERLIN, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Germany will extend its COVID-19 lockdown till at least April 18 with even stricter restrictions during the Easter holidays, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced at a press conference in the early hours of Tuesday.
"We have not yet been able to defeat the virus. It does not give up," said Merkel after a long meeting with the minister-presidents of the federal states.
Merkel stressed that Germany was in a "very, very serious situation" as the country was facing exponentially increasing COVID-19 infections, the spread of more contagious coronavirus variants and a growing burden on intensive care units in hospitals.
The Easter holidays at the beginning of April were designated as "days of rest" with far-reaching contact restrictions as well as a gathering ban in public spaces, Merkel announced. Private gatherings would only be allowed between two households but limited to a maximum of five people.
Outdoor restaurants that already opened would be closed during the five-day Easter holidays. Only food retail would be allowed to open for one day on the first Saturday in April, according to the government's statement.
A total of 7,485 new cases were registered within one day, around 2,000 more than a week ago, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Tuesday.
The incidence rate of reported COVID-19 cases in Germany in the past seven days per 100,000 citizens continued to rise as well and climbed to 108.1 on Tuesday, according to RKI, the federal government agency for disease control and prevention.
The federal and state governments agreed that it was necessary to consistently enforce the "emergency brake" that was recently adopted in order to bring down the incident rate.
After Easter, the phase of "extensive testing" would start in public test centers for COVID-19, in companies as well as schools and daycare centers for children, Merkel said. "The purpose of this large-scale test system is to enable us to really consider further openings."
To date, more than 2.67 million COVID-19 infections have been officially registered in Germany since the outbreak of the pandemic, while the death toll has climbed to 74,964 by Tuesday, according to the RKI. Enditem