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German officials agree on partial lockdown to curb mounting Covid-19 cases

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Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday that German officials have agreed to a four-week shutdown of restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and other leisure facilities in a bid to curb a sharp rise in coronavirus infections.

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Merkel and the country’s 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and easing restrictions, agreed on the partial lockdown in a videoconference on Wednesday. It is set to take effect on Monday and last until the end of November.

Merkel said, “We must act, and now, to avoid an acute national health emergency.”

Shops and schools are to remain open, unlike during Germany’s shutdown during the first phase of the pandemic in March and April. Restaurants will be able to provide take-out food.

Merkel appealed to people not to make unnecessary journeys and said hotels won’t be able to accommodate people on tourist trips.

The decision came hours after Germany’s disease control agency said a record 14,964 new confirmed cases were recorded across the country in the past day, taking the national total in the pandemic to 449,275.

Germany, which has 83 million people, also record 27 more virus-related deaths, raising its overall death toll to 10,098, the Robert Koch Institute said Wednesday.

“We can say that our health system can cope with the challenge today,” Merkel said. “But if the pace of infections continues like this, then we’ll reach the limits of what the health system can manage within weeks.”

The German chancellor promised that firms hit by the new measures would get economic support, saying smaller companies would get 75% of their income in support.

"We will compensate affected companies, institutions and clubs," she said.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)