UPDATE 2-Berlin imposes nighttime ban on gatherings from Friday

10 Apr 2021 / 09:00 H.

    (Releads with decision, adds president vaccinated)

    BERLIN, April 1 (Reuters) - Germany's capital Berlin will impose a nighttime ban on gatherings from Friday and reduce the number of children at nursery from next week to try to stop a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, its city government said on Thursday.

    As the weather has turned warm in recent days, Berliners have been flocking to public spaces to picnic and party, stoking concerns that the coronavirus may be spreading among younger people after schools gradually reopened last month.

    Last week Chancellor Angela Merkel accused state premiers of failing to stick to earlier agreements to reimpose restrictions if infections rose again as the lockdown was gradually relaxed.

    The DIVI association for intensive and emergency medicine said Germany urgently needs a two-week lockdown, faster vaccinations and compulsory tests at schools.

    The Berlin city government said in a statement people would only be allowed to be outside on their own or with one other person from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m., though children under 14 are exempted.

    From next Tuesday, people would only be allowed to meet indoors with one person from outside their household, compared with the current limit of five people from two households.

    This will be the first limited curfew imposed in Berlin since the pandemic began a year ago. The city of Hamburg already announced on Wednesday it will restrict nighttime outings from Friday, with supermarkets and takeaways shut from 9 p.m.

    Unlike Britain and France, Germany's 16 states, which run their own healthcare and security affairs, have been reluctant to impose drastic measures out of fear of damaging the economy and an aversion to far-reaching restrictions on freedoms in a country wary of its Nazi past.

    Christian Karagiannidis, the DIVI's scientific head, said about 1,000 more coronavirus patients had ended up in intensive care since the middle of March. On Wednesday, 3,680 people were in intensive care in Germany, DIVI data show.

    "If this rate continues, we will reach the regular capacity limit in less than four weeks," he told the Rheinische Post daily. "We are not over-exaggerating. Our warnings are driven by the figures."

    The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany, Europe's most populous country and largest economy, rose 24,300 to 2.833 million on Thursday, the biggest daily increase since Jan. 14. The reported death toll rose by 201 to 76,543.

    The number of cases per 100,000 in the last seven days, which the government has used as a key metric to decide on lockdown steps, rose to 134 from 132 on Wednesday, and up from 113 a week ago. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson, editing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean)

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