Germany will close most shops from Wednesday until 10 January and ban the sale of fireworks for New Year’s Eve, after Angela Merkel and state leaders agreed to impose a national lockdown in order to regain control of rising coronavirus infection rates before a “very difficult Christmas”. Non-essential shops, excluding food retailers, pharmacies and banks but including hairdressing salons and beauty parlours, will have to close their doors from 16 December.
Schools and nurseries will also be required to offer only emergency care for essential workers for the last three days before the start of the scheduled Christmas holidays, with parents asked to look after their children at home “whenever possible”. Under the terms of the national lockdown, which Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states agreed in under an hour in an emergency summit on Sunday morning, employers are urged to either release workers for early holidays or allow for more generous remote working arrangements.
WHO Expects Decisions on Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca Vaccines in Weeks
The World Health Organization expects to make decisions on whether to give emergency use approval to COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca in the coming weeks, its chief scientist said on Friday. Soumya Swaminathan said the global health body could decide on Pfizer’s vaccine candidate in the next “couple of weeks”, and later said it could also review Moderna’s and AstraZeneca’s candidates in a few weeks. WHO approval could allow a vaccine to be deployed in some countries where national medical regulators have not yet been able to evaluate it. Swaminathan said at least 10 companies had expressed an interest in or submitted a request for emergency approval for vaccine candidates.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said nearly a billion doses of vaccines had been secured for the COVAX program to provide shots for poor- and middle-income countries, with 189 countries participating. WHO officials described the arrival of vaccines as a major development, but stressed repeatedly that it would take a long time before vaccines could be rolled out worldwide. In the meantime, the epidemic is worsening in much of the world, and countries must continue to take other steps to curb infection, such as testing, tracing, isolating cases and social distancing. Tedros noted that coronavirus deaths had increased 60% in the last six weeks.