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On Wednesday, Ms Merkel announced Germany will enter a four-week national lockdown from November 2. It comes as Germans have taken to streets to protest Ms Merkel’s coronavirus measures – in a sign the German Chancellor is losing control of her lockdown plan. The dramatic shift back to draconian measures, which includes the closure of the hospitality sector, comes following a gruelling meeting between government officials and health experts for 29 hours.
During the summit, Ms Merkel held talks with leaders of the 16 federal states, in order to abandon local measures in favour of a centralised approach to tackle the virus.
Details of the discussions have since emerged showing huge divisions within the German government.
Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), had warned Ms Merkel against the closure of restaurants, citing it is not a hotspot for the spread of the virus, German newspaper BILD reports.
The RKI is the disease control and prevention government body responsible for collecting data on the coronavirus.
Under the new restrictions bars, restaurants, theatres, swimming pools and fitness studios will be closed for a month.
Social mixing will also be limited to two households or up to 10 people.
It is also understood Ms Merkel was in favour of going further, with police given the powers to inspect households to see if the rules were being followed.
Volker Bouffier, a member of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party and leader of the German state of Hesse, led calls against the intrusive idea and forced a climb-down.
According to German magazine Der Spiegel, Mr Bouffier said: “Angela, stop it, that will lead to misery.”
Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has also condemned the new lockdown and highlighted the damage inflicted on the hospitality sector.
He said: “We consider Ms Merkel’s paralysing of the culture and gastronomy sector, practically the entire leisure life of our citizens, to be excessive and inappropriate.”
AfD Honorary Chairman Alexander Gauland added: “The daily bombardment with infection numbers is clearly designed to scare people as most don’t see COVID in their daily lives.
“In the name of citizens’ health, the government has decided on the biggest restrictions of freedom in the history of this republic.”
Upon announcing the measures on Wednesday, Ms Merkel stressed the need to “act now” and warned the health system would “reach the limits of its capacity within weeks” if no action was taken.
In addition to the closure of the hospitality sector and social interaction, people will be asked not to travel for private, non-essential reasons, and overnight stays in hotels will be available only for necessary business trips.
Schools will remain open, as well as shops, if they comply with social distancing and hygiene rules.
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Speaking in the Bundestag this afternoon, the German Chancellor shut down her critics and insisted they are irresponsible.
Ms Merkel said: “It is only with solidarity and transparency that we will be able to confront the pandemic.
“Lies and disinformation, conspiracy theories and hatred damage not only the democratic debate but also the fight against the virus.”
In the past 24 hours, Germany recorded 14,964 new coronavirus infections – the highest figure since the pandemic began and 85 further fatalities.
Germany has recorded 464,239 cases of coronavirus since the start of the health crisis with 10,183 deaths.
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)
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