Germany will have a hard time entering the Christmas season as the number of deaths and infections from coronavirus reaches record levels.
Non-essential stores will be closed nationwide from Wednesday, as well as schools, and children will be cared for in homes where possible.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed Christmas purchases for a “significant” increase in social contacts.
The latest figures show more than 20,200 infections and 321 deaths.
The new closures will run from 16 December to 10 January. Announcing the move after meeting with leaders of 16 countries, Merkel said there was “an urgent need for action”.
A maximum of five people from no more than two households are allowed to gather in a home. But this will be relaxed from 24 to 26 December when one household will be able to invite a maximum of four close family members from other households.
Restaurants, bars and resorts have been closed since November, with some parts of the country closing their doors.
Under national closure, important stores, such as food retailers, will remain open, such as banks. Stores selling Christmas trees can also continue to trade. Hair salons are among the businesses that should close.
Companies are urged to allow employees to work from home.
Nursing homes will be authorized to perform coronavirus tests. New Year’s events and fireworks sales will be closed. Drinking alcohol in public places, such as popular wine stalls, is also prohibited.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the affected businesses would receive 500,000 euros (£ 457,000, $ 605,000) in government subsidies per month.
Bavaria is relatively easy to get home at night from the highest rates of infection throughout the state – the second most populous place in Germany.
Chancellor Merkel said it was the government’s responsibility to “prevent overcrowding of our health systems which is why there is an urgent need for action”.
The latest official figures on Sunday showed an additional 20,200 infections, bringing the figure in Germany to more than 1.3 million. The death toll has risen from 321 to 21 788, according to the Robert Koch Institute.
Germany seemed to be more effective in controlling the epidemic compared to its European neighbors, due to testing and compliance. But there is a growing trend among political leaders that the so-called “lockdown lite” has not benefited enough.
“If we are not careful, Germany could soon become a problem for European children,” warned Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder. “For that reason, we should and should do something.” He did not issue a directive for Germany to extend the ban on trains beyond January 10.
Elsewhere In Europe
The vaccination campaign in Italy will aim to use flower-gazebos set up in parks, stadiums and city squares to start vaccinating the public in mid-January, Covid’s special commissioner Domenico Arcuri said on Sunday. The builder of the gazebos buildings, Stefano Boeri, said the flower was a symbol of early spring, “a symbol of peace and rebirth”.
Italy is now the European nation with the highest rates of coronavirus mortality, according to the latest figures from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. A total of 64,036 recordings of Covid-related deaths have been recorded, surpassing the UK, which recorded 64,026.
People all over the UK have been asked to think “carefully” about the dangers of contacting people at Christmas as the limits were lowered between 23 and 27 December. Three families will be allowed to build a “bubble” and reunite in the house and sleep within five days.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, which has recorded nearly 10,000 new Covid cases in a 24-hour period, officials are urging Christmas shoppers to avoid city centers – such as Amsterdam and The Hague – over the weekend. “Come on in, take a look and enjoy yourself!”
The country has been partially bereaved since 13 October. The Dutch government has been discussing additional ways to curb the spread of the virus.
In Switzerland, five hospitals have sent a letter to Health Minister Alain Berset expressing “grave concern about the current situation” regarding Covid-19 patients, local media reported. Hospitals in Geneva, Bern, Zurich, Basel, and Lausanne said the intensive care unit (ICU) was reaching full capacity and the nurses were under a lot of pressure.
No deadline has been set or a ban on the sale of alcohol will be set in Moscow during the New Year’s holiday, despite the Covid epidemic in the Russian capital, the mayor was quoted as saying by Interfax on Sunday.
As of Monday, schools in the Stockholm district of Sweden have been asked to switch to 13 to 15-year-olds for the first time. Students over the age of 16 return to digital courses across the country on December 7. Among the alternatives to the Christmas season, Swedes are also advised to meet up with eight people, gather outside if possible and avoid traveling by train or bus.