After public outcry, Germany appears set to drop Easter shutdown plan

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"We are now basically in a new pandemic".

"Essentially we have a new virus, obviously of the same type but with completely different characteristics", she added. "It is much deadlier, much more infectious and infectious for much longer".

Merkel announced the decision after calling a hastily arranged videoconference with Germany's 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions.

Coronavirus infections have increased steadily in Germany as the more contagious variant first detected in Britain has become dominant, and the country's daily number of cases per capita has passed that of the United States.

The Robert Koch Institute health agency reported on Tuesday that the national seven-day rate of infections per 100,000 people rose to 108.1.

Genth said the government was operating with "tunnel vision" by only focusing on the number of cases per 100,000 people, rather than other metrics and the fact retailers have taken many steps to limit the risk of infection while shopping.

"The EU is the most exported area at the moment".

European Union states are allowed to strike separate deals with vaccine makers which have not signed agreements with the EU.

"We know that the current emergency measures will not be sufficient to stop the exponential growth", Merkel said in the early hours of the morning after marathon negotiations with state leaders overnight in Berlin. "We will decide responsibly".

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For five days over Easter from 1 April, Germans would have been asked to stay at home and reduce social contact. But the late-night agreement did not include a closing of all stores, including essential shops like supermarkets, which Merkel had called for.

The weekly infection rate per 100,000 people stood at 107 nationwide on Monday, up from the mid-60s three weeks ago.

The leaders also urged churches to hold services online over Easter, leading to some consternation within Merkel's CDU-CSU conservative alliance.

After more than 11 hours of tense talks that ended early Tuesday, Merkel and state leaders extended existing lockdown measures for four more weeks and postponed plans to reopen Europe's largest economy.

Germans can travel freely even amid the pandemic, but hotels and holiday resorts in the country are not allowed to rent rooms to tourists.

She is discussing the move with the country's 16 state premiers on a video call that has already lasted nearly 11 hours.

Travel needs to be cut to a minimum, with quarantines and negative tests required for those re-entering Germany, the memo warned.

"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.

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