Germany set to tighten work-from-home rules amid fears of COVID variants

Reuters

Posted at Jan 20 2021 12:49 AM

People wear face masks as they walk past a bus during lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2021. Fabrizio Bensch, Reuters

BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely to agree with regional leaders on Tuesday stricter requirements for working from home among other measures as they try to rein in the coronavirus, leading politicians said.

New infections have been decreasing in recent days and pressure on intensive care units has eased slightly, but virologists are worried about the possible spread of more infectious variants of the virus.

National and regional leaders meet on Tuesday to decide on extending a current lockdown which has closed most shops and schools and introducing new restrictions.

"The infection numbers have been going down for several weeks or stagnating and that's good. Now we are facing a very aggressive mutation that we have to respond to," Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller told German television.

Mueller said curfews, already in place in states including southern Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, would be under discussion but were unlikely to be imposed everywhere.

"(On curfews) states will want to decide on the basis of infection numbers in individual states," he said.

The focus would be on boosting working from home, he said.

"There are some places of production where workers have to be present but there is much more room for maneuver," said Mueller, adding states aimed to get employees to have to justify why employees had to come to work.

Also up for discussion is a compulsory wearing of heavy duty masks in shops and on public transport which offer more protection than cloth coverings, said Mueller.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen by 11,369 to 2.05 million, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The death toll was up 989 at 47,622.

"We will have to step it up a notch to bring the current early successes to the finish line," Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told broadcaster RTL/n-tv. 

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