Germany set to tighten work-from-home rules amid fears of COVID variants

National and regional leaders meet on Tuesday to decide on extending a current lockdown

  
A doctor stands among cabins being used to inoculate people against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the opening day of a vaccination center at the Messe Berlin trade fair grounds in Berlin, Germany January 18, 2021. Sean Gallup/Pool via REUTERS

A doctor stands among cabins being used to inoculate people against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the opening day of a vaccination center at the Messe Berlin trade fair grounds in Berlin, Germany January 18, 2021. Sean Gallup/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely to agree with regional leaders on Tuesday stricter requirements for working from home among other measures as they try to rein in the coronavirus, leading politicians said.

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.

National and regional leaders meet on Tuesday to decide on extending a current lockdown which has closed most shops and schools and introducing new restrictions.

"The infection numbers have been going down for several weeks or stagnating and that's good. Now we are facing a very aggressive mutation that we have to respond to," Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller told German television.

Mueller said curfews, already in place in states including southern Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, would be under discussion but were unlikely to be imposed everywhere.

"(On curfews) states will want to decide on the basis of infection numbers in individual states," he said.

The focus would be on boosting working from home, he said.

"There are some places of production where workers have to be present but there is much more room for manoeuvre," said Mueller, adding states aimed to get employees to have to justify why employees had to come to work.

Also up for discussion is a compulsory wearing of heavy duty masks in shops and on public transport which offer more protection than cloth coverings, said Mueller.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen by 11,369 to 2.05 million, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The death toll was up 989 at 47,622.

"We will have to step it up a notch to bring the current early successes to the finish line," Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told broadcaster RTL/n-tv.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Nick Macfie) ((Madeline.Chambers@thomsonreuters.com; +4930220133578;))

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