BERLIN – Addressing the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday confirmed the extension of the partial COVID-19 lockdown in the country into December.

“We have without a doubt another difficult few months ahead of us,” stressed Merkel. During the COVID-19 pandemic, “each and every one of us can actively contribute so that we can get through this time well.”

Following rising COVID-19 infection rates in the country, the federal and state governments decided on Wednesday that the partial lockdown, including the closure of restaurants, bars, theaters and leisure facilities, would be extended until Dec. 20.

Furthermore, private meetings with friends and families are limited to five people from two households, according to the government.

An exception would be made during the Christmas holidays, when gatherings with relatives or friends should be limited to ten people.

Merkel urged her compatriots again to avoid any unnecessary social contact and travel. In light of the approaching ski season, Merkel argued that ski resorts could turn into coronavirus “super-spreading” hotspots and should thus all be closed.

“We will try to reach an agreement in Europe” on this, she said. However, she added that this will not be easy.

With Germany’s current measures, which were introduced at the beginning of November, the “dramatic exponential growth” of new COVID-19 infections had been stopped, but the figures were still “too high,” said Merkel.

On Thursday, the number of new COVID-19 infections in Germany increased by 22,268 cases in one day to a total of 983,588, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

The daily fatality rate related to COVID-19 also remained high and increased by 389 in 24 hours to a total of 15,160, according to the RKI. The highest level to date was recorded on Wednesday, when the previous peak of 315 COVID-19 deaths from the first wave of infections in spring was exceeded.

The goal is to reduce the number of infections to enable local health authorities to once again trace and break infection chains, and to reach an incidence rate of less than 50 per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days, according to the government.

“Right now, because we think so much about Christmas and the turn of the year ahead, I wish, and I wish all of us, that we stand up for each other more than ever,” Merkel said. “If we take this to heart, we will get out of this crisis,” she added.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 12, there were 212 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 48 of them were in clinical trials.

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