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Coronavirus: Germany introduces first lockdown as Bavaria imposes two-week ban on going outside

Announcement comes a few days before crisis meeting between Angela Merkel and regional leaders 

Rory Sullivan
Friday 20 March 2020 13:07 GMT
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Bavaria will become the first German state to implement a lockdown in an attempt to tackle the coronavirus outbreak, its state premier has announced.

Markus Soeder, Bavaria’s chief minister, said in a TV address: “It’s not easy to take these decisions. We take these decisions according to the best of our knowledge and conscience. There will be a Bavaria after corona, but it will be a stronger one if we don’t look away.”

“We aren’t shutting Bavaria down. We aren’t locking Bavaria in. But we are bringing public life in Bavaria to a complete halt,” he added.

The state will impose general restrictions on going outside for a period of two weeks to try to slow the spread of the disease. The ban will begin at midnight.

Bavaria’s decision comes ahead of a crisis meeting on Sunday between Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and the country’s regional leaders.

The number of coronavirus cases in Germany increased dramatically overnight from 2,958 to 13,957, with 31 deaths caused so far by the disease.

The German government warned on Friday that it may have to impose a country-wide curfew on its 83 million citizens if they do not abide by social distancing over the weekend.

Stefan Seibert, a spokesperson for Ms Merkel, said: “They will carry out a ruthless analysis of the situation. How the public behaves on Saturday will be decisive.”

Germany has already shut schools, restaurants and shops to tackle the crisis.

However, people continue to gather in places such as parks and playgrounds.

The German Epidemiology Society expressed its support for the measures used so far but said they would be subject to ongoing review.

The organisation said: “There is a short window of opportunity to choose between containing and slowing the spread of this infection without overburdening our health system. In both cases, rigorous enforcement will be needed for a long period of time.”

Stefan Kluge, head of intensive medicine at the Hamburg University Hospital, said he wanted to see an immediate curfew.

He said: “We have to reduce the number of new infections – that’s why I am in favour of a rigorous and immediate curfew.”

Elsewhere, the southwestern city of Freiburg has said it will start implementing a curfew from the weekend. North Rhine-Westphalia, the country’s most populous state, has suggested it may do the same.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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