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Germany’s Merkel bans meetings of more than 2 people to slow coronavirus

BERLIN — Germany will ramp up efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus by banning meetings of more than two people outside the same household and mandating the closure of nonessential businesses, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday.

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Speaking after meeting the leaders of Germany’s regions earlier on Sunday afternoon, Merkel was clear the new restrictions are not desirable but necessary. “None of us wished that we would ever have to face the people with such rules,” said Merkel.

The new regulations, the tightest in modern Germany’s history, will last at least two weeks, and mean restaurants, hairdressers, massage parlors and other nonessential stores should close. The measures stop short of a curfew.

Merkel also warned of consequences if people violate the new measures, but did not specify what that would entail. “These are not recommendations, but rules,” she said.

The new regulation says: “Spending time in public space is only permitted on your own, with another person who does not live in the household or with members of your own household.” When in public, people should stand at least 1.5 meters apart, Merkel said.

Some federal states, including Bavaria in the south, have already implemented their own lockdown measures.

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Germany has already taken steps to try to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by expanding border controls to EU travelers and suspending various aspects of public life.

Also Sunday, Merkel said she will go into self-quarantine at home after a doctor who gave her a vaccination tested positive for the coronavirus.

A government spokesperson said the doctor had given the chancellor a “prophylactic pneumococcus vaccine” on Friday afternoon.

The chancellor was informed of the positive test after she announced strict new rules across the country on Sunday aimed at containing the virus, the spokesperson said.

She decided to immediately self-quarantine and will be tested regularly in the coming days, but will continue her official duties from home, the government said.

On Wednesday, Merkel addressed the nation in a televised audience with an empathetic plea for solidarity and an end to stockpiling. She also called on residents to accept temporary restrictions on their way of life in order to curtail the spread of the virus.

To date, there have been 24,714 cases in Germany with 92 deaths.

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