Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for much tougher restrictions on public life going into Christmas. She came out explicitly in favor of the recommendations that Germany’s National Academy of Science, Leopoldina, released on Tuesday. They call for an end to required school attendance starting Dec. 14, an extended Christmas school break, full closure of businesses and working from home to the fullest extent possible. Merkel said she opposed opening hotels so families could meet over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and that she agreed with recommendations to close shops after Christmas until January 10. Merkel made her remarks in the Bundestag parliament Wednesday morning as part of the debate over the government’s 2021 budget debate. These debates are traditionally an opportunity to take stock of government performance over the previous year. This was Merkel’s last budget debate, as she will not stand for reelection next year, after 15 years of heading the German government. Merkel pushed back against criticism over her government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, arguing the country was going through an “exceptional situation.” Merkel said the new debt the government has taken on as it imposes measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 was justified. “We are living in a pandemic, we are living in an exceptional situation,” she told lawmakers in the Bundestag.
Whether Germany remains an example of how to cope with the pandemic is under debate.The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s public disease health authority, on Wednesday announced a record daily death toll in Germany of 590 people bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 19,932 with more than 1.2 million infections.
Merkel came under sharp criticism from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The party’s co-leader Alice Weidel called for an end to “counterproductive lockdowns” and slammed what she called Merkel’s “aimless and grotesque” handling of the pandemic. “She locks up citizens and destroys entire industries,” said Weidel, who argued a lockdown was being imposed with a “sledgehammer” and will lead to more harm than good. Merkel also warned that the dark days of the pandemic were not yet over, saying that there would not be enough vaccines available in the first quarter of 2021 to significantly tamp down COVID-19. However, she said that with the right measures in place, deaths could be reduced. “The most important key to us successfully fighting the virus is the responsible behavior of every individual and the willingness to cooperate,” the chancellor said. Merkel does not have the authority to implement new measures on her own. She needs the agreement of the leaders of Germany’s 16 states.Some, such as Saxony and Bavaria, are already on board with tougher restrictions
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