Angela Merkel has agreed with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states to extend and tighten measures against coronavirus until at least 20 December – and they are likely to extend them into January, she said late on Wednesday.
“This is absolutely not the time to sound the all-clear,” she told journalists, after the number of deaths from the virus reached a daily record.
However, rules will be eased over the Christmas holidays to let families and friends celebrate together.
Germany imposed a month-long “lockdown lite” on 2 November to rein in a second wave that is sweeping much of Europe. Bars and restaurants are closed but schools and shops remain open.
From 1 December, private gatherings will be limited to five people. Over Christmas, that number will rise to 10, not counting children, though Wednesday’s decisions included an appeal to avoid social contact for a week before family visits.
“This must not be a lonely Christmas for people in vulnerable groups,” she said.
People will be actively encouraged to do their Christmas shopping midweek to avoid crowding. Masks are now also expected to be worn outside shops where long queues are expected to form in the run-up to Christmas and the new year, as well as in car parks. In schools, obligatory mask wearing is to be introduced for school pupils from the seventh grade (12-13 years) upwards.