Draft plan proposes extending German lockdown until March 28

A lockdown that has forced shops and businesses to close across Germany is to be extended until March 28, with the possibility of easing contact restrictions before then, according to a draft proposal seen by dpa on Tuesday.

Any steps out of the lockdown, which was fully implemented in mid-December to break a second wave of coronavirus cases, would vary depending on the region and be based on local infection rates, the plan says.

Negotiations are ongoing ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s next round of lockdown talks with state premiers on Wednesday, when a final decision on next steps will be made.

Calls have grown for easing, as public opinion shifts away from further lockdown measures amid a fall in infections.

However, politicians and scientists have warned that more dangerous variants of the coronavirus are spreading in Germany, most notably the B117 strain first identified in Britain.

This is the reason for the proposed lockdown extension, although people would be allowed to have meetings of up to five people from two households starting on Monday. Currently, groups of more than two are banned.

The plan also hopes that a mass roll-out of rapid antigen testing in the coming weeks can lead to further easing down the line.

States have already begun sending schoolchildren back to classrooms in recent weeks. Hairdressers reopened in Germany on Monday.

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