BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will extend a ban on large events until at least the end of October to try to avoid a new wave of coronavirus infections, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.
After speaking with the premiers of Germany’s 16 states, she urged people to remain cautious and maintain social distancing. But she also said the number of new infections in Europe’s most populous country had stabilised at a low level.
Merkel last month conceded more responsibility to the regional states for tackling the pandemic, but insisted that social distancing and mask-wearing remained essential.
Germany has managed to keep its COVID-19 death toll relatively low despite a high number of cases, confirmed through widespread testing. On Wednesday it reported 345 new cases over the previous day and 30 deaths.
A nationwide shutdown begun in mid-March has already been eased, with shops, factories, schools and restaurants reopening.
Merkel and the premiers agreed that large events, where contact tracing and distancing were not possible, should be banned at least until the end of October, a government document showed.
Protests and demonstrations will continue to be allowed, but the document said authorities must take steps to reduce the infection risks there.
In northern Germany, one of Germany’s biggest meat processors, Toennies, said it had was shutting an abattoir in Guetersloh after some 400 of its workers tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The local authority closed schools and kindergartens as a precaution.
Germany has already banned the subcontracting of meat-packing work through employment agencies after a series of outbreaks among slaughterhouse workers.
Abattoirs around the world and especially in the United States have been suffering outbreaks of the coronavirus. [nL1N2CY03V]
(This story corrects spelling to Toennies in paragraph 8)
(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Paul Carrel and Kevin Liffey)