Germany is set to extend a lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 into its fifth month, according to a draft proposal, after infection rates exceeded the level at which authorities say hospitals will be overstretched.

The recommendation is contained in a draft, seen by Reuters, prepared by Chancellor Angela Merkel's office ahead of tomorrow's videoconference of regional and national leaders to decide on the next round of measures to deal with the pandemic.

At their last meeting early this month, the leaders agreed a cautious opening, overriding the objections of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said more infectious variants had made the pandemic hard to control.

The Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases said the number of cases per 100,000 people over a week stood at 103.9 today, above the 100 threshold at which intensive care units will start running out of capacity.

The draft says lockdown should continue until 18 April and that an "emergency brake" agreed at the last meeting will be applied to halt any further cautious opening measures in areas that exceed 100 per 100,000.

An earlier proposal, circulated by the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel's coalition, that all returning travellers would face quarantine, even if they had not been in a coronavirus risk zone, was in brackets in the latest draft, meaning it is still under discussion.

The proposal also mentioned possible evening curfews for areas with high case numbers, though a precise curfew time was not mentioned.

The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 13,733 to 2,659,516, the Robert Koch Institute said today, and the reported death toll has risen by 99 to 74,664.

The latest draft would also tighten obligations on companies: those who were unable to offer their employees the option of working from home would have to provide them with one Covid-19 test each week, or two if sufficient supplies were available.


Read more:
Latest coronavirus stories


The new proposals appear directed at people considering holidaying in places, like the Spanish island of Majorca, which are not considered virus risk areas and therefore do not currently trigger a quarantine on returning to Germany.

Holiday destinations should be targeted "since we can expect that holidaymakers from many countries will meet in popular holiday destinations, letting Covid-19 variants spread easily," according to the draft plans.

Earlier, Stephan Weil, premier of Lower Saxony, told the RND newspaper group that the government's earlier decision to lift the travel warning for Majorca had been a "serious error".

Philippines shuts churches, curbs travel 

Churches in Manila will be closed, eating inside restaurants banned and leisure travel outside the Philippine capital curbed under new coronavirus rules unveiled as the country battles a resurgence in infections.

The number of new cases has exceeded 7,000 for three days in a row - the highest since the start of the pandemic - taking the country's caseload to more than 663,000 and straining hospitals.

Around half of the active cases are in Metro Manila where many of the 12 million inhabitants live in poor and overcrowded neighbourhoods. 

"We have two goals: to reduce the transmission of the virus in Metro Manila and avoid the spread of the virus, especially of the new variants, outside Metro Manila because we know these are more transmissible," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

The new rules will be in place for two weeks from tomorrow and also apply to the surrounding provinces of Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan.

Public transport will continue to operate and workers allowed to commute as the government stops short of imposing another devastating lockdown in the country's economic heartland.

Non-essential trips in and out of the targeted region are prohibited - a blow to already struggling tourism operators looking forward to the Easter holidays when many Filipinos flock to the country's beaches and mountains.

"We know that some of you have plans and you are looking forward to this Holy Week break, but if we allow unimpeded travel right now, the new variants of the virus will spread faster in different parts of the Philippines," Mr Roque said.

Independent research group OCTA yesterday called for "drastic and immediate action" to slow the spread of the virus.

Its current modelling shows hospital beds, including intensive care, in the capital will be full by the first week of April.