Chancellor Angela Merkel has pleaded with Germans to cut down on socialising and reduce their interactions in the run-up to the holidays to avoid it being “the last Christmas with our grandparents” after coronavirus deaths hit record levels.
In an emotional video, the premier said it was “unacceptable” for people to be out enjoying festivities, such as Christmas stands selling mulled wine and waffles, while the country’s daily coronavirus death toll hits a peak of 590 fatalities.
The country has been in partial shutdown from early November, with measures including hospitality venues opening for takeaway only.
Ms Merkel said: “I’m sorry, I really am sorry from the bottom of my heart. But if the price we pay is 590 deaths a day that is not acceptable in my view.”
The chancellor called for schools to be shut for the Christmas break three days earlier in a bid to reduce contacts and therefore transmission of the virus before families meet for the holiday.
She said: "When scientists are begging us to reduce our contacts for a week before we see grandparents and older people at Christmas, then perhaps we really should think again about whether we can’t find a way to start the school holidays on 16 instead of 19 December.
"What will we say when we look back on this once-in-a-century event, if we weren’t able to find a solution for these three days?
Ms Merkel acknowledged that “sending children home may be the wrong thing to do” and, if that is the case, remote learning may be used instead.
In a powerful plea to Germans, the premier underlined: "I only want to say: if we have too many contacts now, in the run-up to Christmas and it ends up being the last Christmas with our grandparents, then we will have done something wrong. We should not let this happen”.
Germany recorded its highest ever daily death toll of 590 fatalities on Wednesday, as well as 20,815 new cases.
Senior government officials have suggested a national lockdown for two weeks after Christmas that would include extending the school break by a week and shutting all non-essential retail.
Coronavirus infections remain high despite a partial shutdown from 2 November.
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