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Angela Merkel calls for uniform set of COVID restrictions across Germany

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By Euronews  with AP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech in the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, April 16, 2021.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech in the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, April 16, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Markus Schreiber   -  

German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to lawmakers in the Bundestag to pass a bill that would unify COVID-19 restrictions nationwide.

"The situation is serious, very serious, and we need to take it seriously," she told lawmakers.

"There is no way around it. We need to stop this third wave of the pandemic... and to achieve this we need to better combine the strengths of the federal, state and local governments than we have been," she went on.

The bill would force landers to impose an "emergency brake" when the 7-day COVID-19 incidence rate reaches 100 new cases per 100,000 population.

This uniform set of rules imposed by the federal government includes the closure of stores, cultural and sports facilities, limits on personal contacts and nighttime curfews.

Currently, each region has been able to mandate its own restrictions with nationwide measures decided after lengthy negotiations between the federal government and the authorities of the 16 landers.

Passing the bill is an uphill battle for Merkel, with state governments reluctant to cede any authority over health care to the federal government.

It needs approval not only by the lower house of parliament, which Merkel addressed Friday, but by the state-run upper house as well.

The country recorded 25,831 new cases of COVID-19 overnight and 247 additional deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre. Its incidence rate nationwide stands at just above 160 cases each week per 100,000 residents.

"Intensive care physicians are making one call after another for help. Who are we if we leave these calls unheard?" Merkel asked. "We cannot be permitted to leave the doctors and nurses alone."

The lower house of parliament is expected to vote on the bill next week, with the upper house to follow.

Merkel also received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, hours after urging lawmakers to approve the bill.

"I am happy to have received my first vaccination with AstraZeneca today," Merkel, 66, said in a statement released online by her spokesman. A picture of her vaccine certificate was also shared.

"I thank everyone who is involved in the vaccination campaign — and everyone who gets vaccinated. Vaccination is the key to overcoming the pandemic," she added.

More than 20.7 million doses of the vaccines have been administered across Germany with 5.2 million people now fully inoculated.