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Coronavirus: Merkel slams state premiers over Christmas hotel opening plan

Published: Updated:

Chancellor Angela Merkel railed against the plans of some regional governments to let hotels open for family visits over Christmas, warning it risked worsening the coronavirus surge sweeping Germany, participants in a party meeting said.

Infection levels rose overnight compared to the same time last week, despite the partial lockdown introduced for November and since extended and tightened in an attempt to control the spread of the virus.

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Merkel and state premiers agreed last week that some partial easing of the lockdown would be allowed to allow families some low-key Christmas celebrations.

But in a video conference of her conservative party’s top leadership on Monday, Merkel said she could not understand the plans of some northern and western states, where the epidemic is less severe, to allow hotels to open to allow far-flung families to get together.

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Meeting participants told Reuters she saw this as particularly risky in large cities and in regions with high infection numbers.

Despite Merkel’s comments, however, the regional leaders have the final say on what happens in their states under Germany’s federal structure.

Her intervention came shortly before a meeting of the “coronavirus cabinet”, at which ministers are expected to discuss further responses to Germany’s greatest public health crisis in a century.

Though Germany has already mobilized unprecedented government aid to help support the economy through the pandemic, ministers warned on Monday that nothing could fully spare companies from the impact.

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“People have to show discipline,” economy minister Peter Altmaier, the architect of the economic response to the pandemic told Deutschlandfunk radio. “We have to do more to reduce social contacts.”

Altmaier added that pandemic aid for companies could not be extended indefinitely.

In an indication of the severity of the pandemic’s economic impact, the percentage of companies using the state-backed furlough scheme rose to 28 percent in November, up from 24.8 percent the month before, the Ifo institute said.