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Germany set to extend partial shutdown well into December

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a joint news conference with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz after a virtual G20 summit meeting, at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on Nov. 22, 2020. (Hannibal Hanschke/Pool via AP)

BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country's 16 state governors are expected Wednesday to extend a partial shutdown well into December, and discuss tightening some restrictions while allowing somewhat more generous rules for the Christmas period.

    Germany embarked on a so-called "wave-breaker" shutdown on Nov. 2, shutting restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities but leaving schools, shops and hair salons open. It was initially slated to last four weeks.

    Proposals drawn up ahead of Wednesday's videoconference by state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions, call for extending the shutdown until Dec. 20.

    So far, the measures have succeeded in halting an upward surge in new coronavirus infections -- but they have stabilized at a high level, rather than sinking back to levels at which authorities feel contact-tracing efforts can be successful.

    On Wednesday, the national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 18,633 new cases over the past 24 hours -- compared with 17,561 a week earlier. The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 climbed by 410, the highest single-day total yet.

    Proposals for Wednesday's gathering envision tightening contact restrictions and mask-wearing rules. The federal government reportedly plans around 17 billion euros ($20 billion) more in aid to compensate businesses hit by the shutdown, following more than 10 billion euros this month.

    Over the Christmas period, plans so far call for somewhat looser contact restrictions.

    Germany, which has 83 million people, was credited with a relatively good performance in the first phase of the pandemic. It still has a lower death rate than several other European countries, and its current shutdown has been relatively mild.

    Germany has reported a total of 961,320 virus cases since the pandemic began, including 14,771 deaths.

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