German Chancellor Merkel extends lockdown amid new virus variant

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks prior to the start of the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 governors are extending the country’s coronavirus lockdown until March 7 amid concern about new virus variants.

The agreement provides some exceptions, including allowing hairdressers to reopen on March 1, with hygiene regulations.

Germany’s second lockdown began in November and was extended and toughened before Christmas due to concern that the number of COVID-19 patients could overwhelm hospitals. It was to end on Sunday.

The weekly number of new infections has dropped to 68 per 100,000 inhabitants. The government’s goal is below 50 to help with reliable contact tracing. The number peaked at nearly 200 before Christmas.

On Wednesday, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute reported 8,072 new virus cases and 813 deaths in 24 hours. Germany has registered more than 63,000 confirmed deaths.

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