German governors, Merkel to discuss virus amid high cases

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A woman prepares her face mask due to the coronavirus pandemic in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold talks Tuesday with the governors of Germany’s 16 states amid growing concerns about the steep rise in new coronavirus cases in the country.

Merkel’s office confirmed Monday that the outgoing chancellor would have a video call with governors to discuss the outbreak, but declined to say whether any decisions would be made.

Germany’s highest court is to decide Tuesday on complaints filed against nationwide restrictions to curb coronavirus infections that were imposed earlier this year under federal “emergency brake” rules. The ruling could provide officials with guidance on the legality of any new coronavirus restrictions.

Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania in the northeast and Saarland in the west were the latest German states to tighten restrictions. Only people who can prove they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will be able to enter nonessential stores. Saarland will also require people who are vaccinated or recovered to present a recent negative test to enter swimming pools and cultural venues.

Official figures on Monday showed 29,364 newly confirmed cases in Germany the past 24 hours, and 73 deaths. Infection rates have been particularly high in the east and south, with hospitals there already transfering intensive care patients to other parts of Germany.

The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Hendrik Wuest, said governors and federal officials shouldn’t wait until the new government takes office next month before agreeing upon new, nationwide coronavirus restrictions. He called for common rules on reducing social contacts, financial help for companies affected by further restrictions and preparations for a possible vaccine mandate.

While Germany has had fewer deaths from COVID-19 per capita than some of its European peers — such as Britain, France and Italy — the country’s federal system has slowed the decision-making process and resulted in a patchwork of different anti-virus rules in each state.

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