Germany is extending its lockdown until April 18 and asking citizens to stay at home for five days over the Easter holidays in an effort to combat the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Chancellor Angela Merkel attributed the need for more stringent measures to the dominance of the more infectious and deadly British mutation of the virus. The number of Covid-19 cases has risen sharply, prompting fears that hospitals could become overwhelmed. Despite pushing for a complete closure of all stores, the agreement reached did not include this measure.
Germany’s leaders are urging people to avoid large family gatherings over the holidays, with a limit of two households or five people being allowed to meet. Additionally, churches are asked to hold Easter services online to prevent gatherings. The lockdown extension is expected to delay Germany’s economic recovery, with economists predicting a delay until early summer.
There has been tension over vaccine distribution in the EU, with Britain demanding delivery of ordered vaccines and possible discussions of a ban on vaccine exports to Britain during an EU summit on Thursday. Germany’s leaders are in a race against time to vaccinate the population before new variants take over, with only 9% of Germans having received at least one shot of the vaccine. While airlines are now responsible for ensuring travelers and crew are tested for the virus prior to their return to Germany, there is no mandatory quarantine for all returning travelers, providing relief for holiday destinations such as Spain’s Mallorca. Merkel emphasized that despite the challenges, there is hope for the end of the pandemic.