Merkel says UK variant ‘whole new pandemic’ as Germany extends lockdown

Germany has announced that it will extend its lockdown for a further three weeks in response to a rapidly rising rate of coronavirus infections. The restrictions will be particularly tough over the Easter weekend.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the European country is now in a “very serious” situation.

In a news conference on Tuesday, the German leader said: “We basically have a new pandemic. The mutation from Great Britain has taken over… It is clearly more lethal, more contagious and contagious for longer.”

“Case numbers are rising exponentially and intensive care beds are filling up again,” Ms Merkel said.

In recent weeks, coronavirus infections have been rising across Europe as countries have been attempting hurriedly to vaccinate their populations, despite delays.

In Germany, the infection rate has risen above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants. As well as this, 7,485 infections have been reported in the past 24 hours and 250 deaths have been recorded.

Tuesday’s lockdown extension goes against a decision made by state leaders earlier this month to begin a cautious reopening process in the country.

Lockdown measures will include Germans being asked to stay at home for five days, from 1 April.

In person religious services have been cancelled, family gatherings of more than two households or over five people have been banned and all non-essential shops will be shut.

Measures, such as the closure of sporting facilities, will remain until 18 April.

A so-called “emergency brake” will prevent further re-openings in areas of the country where infection numbers reach more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people, for a period of seven days

As of Sunday, in Germany around 4 per cent of the population had received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine with 9 per cent having had their first dose.

Ms Merkel was keen to stress how the situation would improve as more people were vaccinated.

“It’s difficult for longer than we thought,” she said, “but there’s definitely light visible at the end of the tunnel.”

Meanwhile, in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that any potential third wave in Europe may “wash up on our shores” later on in the year.

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