Merkel backs tougher virus curbs as German deaths hit record

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has advocated tougher restrictions on public life and pleaded with her compatriots to cut down on socializing as the country reports its highest single-day coronavirus death toll yet

“We are in a decisive, perhaps the decisive, phase of fighting the pandemic,” Merkel told parliament Wednesday. “The figures are at much too high a level,” she added, describing as “very alarming” the rising number of people requiring intensive care and dying.

Restaurants, bars, leisure and sports facilities are currently closed, and hotels are closed to tourists, but schools and nonessential shops remain open.

Germany managed to avoid the high number of infections and grim death tolls seen in other large European nations in the spring, and continues to have a much lower overall fatality rate than countries such as Britain, France and Spain. But the current numbers are not encouraging.

Merkel noted a recommendation Tuesday from a national academy of scientists and academics for Germans to reduce their social contacts starting next week and put in place a “hard lockdown” from Dec. 24 to Jan. 10.

“We would do well to really take seriously what scientists tell us,” she said.

“If we have too many contacts before Christmas and then it’s our last Christmas with our grandparents, then we will have been negligent,” she said.

Some state governors are already moving to tougher restrictions. The eastern state of Saxony, currently the worst-hit, will close schools and most stores on Monday until Jan. 10. Its southern neighbor, Bavaria, is introducing measures such as a nighttime curfew in its worst-affected areas and demanding more home schooling and stricter border controls.

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Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.

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