Under Wednesday’s agreement, the threshold at which tougher measures such as late-night curfews on bars and tighter restrictions of private gatherings kick in will be lowered to 35 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, compared with 50 before.
If these measures fail to halt the rise in infections, further measures will be introduced to avoid a second full lockdown that could have a devastating impact on the economy.
“We are much closer to a second lockdown than we might want to believe,” Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder said at the news conference, warning: “It is perhaps not five to midnight but rather the stroke of midnight.”
Merkel urged especially young people to do their part to halt the spread of the coronavirus after private parties were repeatedly blamed for localised outbreaks in German cities.
“We must call especially on young people to do without a few parties now in order to have a good life tomorrow or the day after,” she said.
Soeder echoed her comments, calling for a “philosophy of more masks, less alcohol, fewer private parties”.
At the same time, Merkel warned that the effects of measures would need to be continually assessed, and further measures could come.
“We will see whether today’s decisions were enough. My uneasiness is not gone yet,” she said.
The number of confirmed cases increased by 5,132 to 334,585 on Tuesday, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll rose by 43.