German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a press conference following a videoconference with prime ministers of federal states to discuss new measures to reduce the number of Covid-19 infections on January 19.

Photo: Philip Singer / Ball / Getty Images

Germany extends its current national lockdown until mid-February and introduces new, tougher measures as the country’s death toll continues to rise.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her 16th state prime ministers agreed Tuesday night to extend the lockdown, which began in December, after a lengthy eight-hour debate. Stricter requirements for masks – including the use of FFP2 / N95 masks on public transport and in stores – are becoming mandatory across the country. The reinforced measures came after the German government warned of the danger of new variants of the virus.

One of the points of contention was in the discussions on the topic of schools. Ultimately, officials decided they would remain locked down but in the end, it is up to the federal states to mandate this.

CNN’s n-tv has spoken to the German public about the changes to the Covid-19 restrictions, with a woman telling the local TV channel that she was hoping the impact of the current lockdown would be clear now.

“The lockdown should have had some effects already, but we don’t see that,” she said.

Another man supported the government’s moves, saying, “They are elected officials and they will know what is best for the people.”

The changes come as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s national agency for disease control and prevention, released the latest coronavirus numbers, on Wednesday morning.

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An additional 1,148 deaths were recorded, bringing the total number of people who died from the disease to 48,770 – the second highest daily jump since January 14, when the death toll reached 1,244.

15,974 new cases of Covid-19 were also recorded, bringing the total number in the country to 2068,002, according to the RKI.

When it comes to vaccinations, RKI said 1,195,543 people have been vaccinated so far, with 1,195,543 people receiving the first dose and 24,741 people getting the second dose.

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