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UPDATE 3-Germany extends lockdown to Feb. 14 on fears of COVID variants

20 Jan 2021 / 04:59 H.

    * Most shops and schools to remain closed

    * Current lockdown was due to end on Jan. 31

    * Extension is part of package of measures to fight pandemic (Adds Merkel quotes)

    By Andreas Rinke and Christian Kraemer

    BERLIN, Jan 19 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers agreed on Tuesday to extend a lockdown for most shops and schools until Feb. 14 as part of a package of steps to try to rein in the coronavirus.

    "Now is the time to take preventive measures against the threat of this virus," Merkel told reporters after a meeting with the premiers of Germany's 16 federal states.

    The existing lockdown runs until Jan. 31.

    New infections have been decreasing in recent days and pressure on intensive care units has eased slightly, but virologists are worried about the possible spread of more infectious variants of the virus.

    The number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen by 11,369 to 2.05 million, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The death toll was up 989 at 47,622. (Additional reporting by Holger Hansen, Madeline Chambers, Paul Carrel, Thomas Escritt; Editing by Nick Macfie and Dan Grebler)

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