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Germany mulls further COVID restrictions over new variant fears

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Angela Merkel takes part in a press conference following the consultations between the federal and state governments on further COVID measures
Angela Merkel takes part in a press conference following the consultations between the federal and state governments on further COVID measures   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting with regional leaders on Tuesday to discuss imposing stricter measures to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

The government tightened the country's lockdown in early January until the end of this month, but government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Tuesday that "the number of new infections is still too high and requires the reduction of even more contact."

The meeting between Merkel and the head of the country's 16 landers was brought forward over fears variants of the novel coronavirus — which are up to 70 per cent more transmissible — could lead to a surge in new infections.

Medical workers have been demanding an extension or toughening of the lockdown since many hospitals are still on edge, with intensive care wards overflowing in some areas.

Further restrictions floated in recent days include nightly curfews, an obligation to wear the more effective FFP2 or KN95 masks on public transportation, and a push to get more people to work at home to avoid office-driven infections.

The country's infection rate has stabilised in recent days, indicating that existing restrictions may have been effective in bringing down the numbers.

A further 11,369 new confirmed infections were reported on Tuesday by the country's infectious disease control centre (RKI) while 989 new fatalities were deplored, taking the overall death toll to 47,622.

So far more than 1.1 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.