German leaders agree on new restrictions to stem the Omicron variant

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A poster reads “I protect you” during the local coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Dresden, Germany on December 14, 2020. REUTERS / Matthias Rietschel / File Photo

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BERLIN, Jan. 7 (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet with regional leaders on Friday to agree on new measures to tackle the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, including tighter restrictions on restaurants and bars.

Among the steps being considered is the requirement for people who have received only two coronavirus vaccines to show proof of a negative test to enter a restaurant or bar, with the aim of encouraging more people to get a callback.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the hospitality industry was a “problem area, as people often sit there for hours without masks,” in an interview with broadcaster RTL Direkt on Thursday.

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Hendrik Wuest, prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, told Welt news outlet that stricter restaurant rules were reasonable because being surrounded by people without masks required maximum protection and the reminder was available to everyone.

Quarantine rules should also be relaxed, meanwhile, to avoid having too many people isolated at the same time, especially in critical areas.

Omicron now accounts for 44% of coronavirus infections in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for Infectious Diseases said in its weekly report, based on coronavirus testing.

He said 41.6% of people had received a booster.

Guido Zoellick, president of the hotel industry association DEHOGA, called for financial support to support businesses that are already faltering over existing measures.

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Reporting by Miranda Murray

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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