Following a meeting with the country’s 16 state premiers, Germany has decided to extend a strict nationwide lockdown until February 14 as a “precaution” for the health of the citizens, the country, and the economy, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

Under the new restrictions, which were initially set to come to an end on January 31, schools, non-essential businesses, leisure and cultural facilities, most shops and gyms will remain closed and people will be required to wear filter masks, such as the FFP2 respirators when using the public transport and entering shops. 

Concerning the “social bubble”, private gatherings at home are restricted to one person not living in the same household, while people are not allowed to drink alcohol in public spaces.  Employers were also encouraged to allow employees work from home, wherever it’s possible. 

The new restrictions come amid fears over emergent virus variants, first spotted in the UK and in South Africa, while local media reported on Monday that an unknown variant was detected in 35 people at a hospital in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen after 73 patients and staff members at the Bavarian facility tested positive for COVID-19.

“All our efforts to contain the virus are threatened by a serious danger,” Merkel told reporters, referring to the new strain that has sparked a spike in cases in Britain.

“There is still time to contain the danger,” she said before adding that “We must act now.”

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