Germany is extending its lockdown until April 18 and calling on citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holidays to try to break a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said early on Tuesday.
In talks that ran deep into the night, Ms. Merkel pushed the leaders of Germany's 16 states to take a tougher stance to fight the pandemic, reversing plans for a gradual re-opening of the economy agreed earlier this month after a sharp rise in the infection rate.
"We are now in a very serious situation," she told journalists at a news conference, adding that Germany was in a race against time to vaccinate its population against the coronavirus.
Germany started cautiously easing restrictions earlier this month. But the spread of more infectious variants of the virus has pushed up cases, prompting concerns that hospitals could soon be overstretched without further curbs.
The Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases said the number of cases per 100,000 population over a week stood at 107 on Monday, above the 100 threshold at which intensive care units will start running out of capacity. More than 3,000 people with COVID-19 were in intensive care beds as of Sunday.