Merkel to face press grilling after Germany extends Covid lockdown

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Merkel and state leaders agreed on Tuesday to extend a hard lockdown that keeps schools, restaurants and all non-essential businesses shut until February 14. "We need to slow the spread of this mutation as much as possible". "We are doing this as a precautionary measure for the sake of citizens' health, as well as for the sake of the economy and labor market", Merkel said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday she wants to talk to United States President Joe Biden's administration about the German-Russian Nord Stream gas pipeline project that faces US sanctions.

Germany shares borders with nine countries, and there are growing concerns about infection rates in some of them, including Czech Republic, where commuter traffic is heavy.

Merkel defended a decision to secure vaccines against the virus through the European Commission, dismissing advocates of a go-it-alone approach who say Germany could have secured more vaccines faster on its own.

He would not be drawn on specific measures that could be decided on Tuesday, but said discussions would surround "issues like working from home, medical masks, public transport ― not about the complete halt of public transport but about reducing contact in them".

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A further 15,974 new Covid-19 cases were also registered, raising the total number in the country to 2,068,002, according to RKI.

Aid for hard-hit companies is to be improved, and retailers' writedowns on seasonal goods - which could include winter coats or ski equipment - will be taken into account. Labor Minister Hubertus Heil is going to draft a regulation that obliges employers to give employees the chance to work from home "where possible", she said.

A waiver on insolvency filings for firms hit by the coronavirus crisis will be extended until the end of April.

Merkel said the mutation was still not dominant in Germany and that only a cautious approach could prevent an aggressive rise in daily new infections caused by the new variant first identified in England. That number now stands at 132.

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