On Monday, a group of experts urged Merkel to impose stricter measures in the face of new virus variants that could spread rapidly in Germany, citing recent case data from both the United Kingdom and Ireland.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers agreed on Tuesday to extend a lockdown for most shops and schools until February 14 as part of a package of steps to try to rein in the coronavirus, sources told Reuters.
She said the government will also require people to wear medical masks that meet certain standards when they are in stores, and when they are using public transportation.
CNN affiliate n-tv spoke to German members of public about the changes to Covid-19 restrictions, with one woman telling the local television channel that she had hoped the current lockdown's impact would be evident by now.
Tuesday's talks between Merkel and state premiers were brought forward by a week because of concerns over virus variants recently discovered in South Africa and Britain. Chancellor Merkel, in the meanwhile, urged that European Union nations work together to stem the spread of the new mutations of the coronavirus.
"We can do anything we like, but we will not succeed if others are not working in parallel", Merkel told journalists on Tuesday, two days ahead of a videoconference of European leaders. She added that the number of patients in intensive care had dropped marginally.
Elsewhere, Japan confirmed 103 new fatalities on Tuesday, the first daily death toll over 1-hundred.
While the United Kingdom is seeing a gradual downturn, it has recorded an accumulated death toll of 90-thousand.
Most schools will remain closed, despite opposition, given evidence that some new variants are more transmissible among children, Merkel said. According to the report, the chancellor argued that despite shrinking infection numbers, a stricter lockdown was now necessary due to potentially more contagious variants of the virus and to get numbers down far enough to be able to exit the vicious cycle of extending lockdown.
Seibert noted on Monday that the incidence rate was still at over 130 per 100,000 people, and that Germany "must more quickly" bring that down to 50.
In northern Germany, officials were planning to take more drastic measures against people who breach quarantine rules.