German regional leaders demand tighter lockdown -paper

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BERLIN, March 31 (Reuters) – The premiers of two southern German states badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic urged leaders in the rest of the country to reintroduce tougher lockdown measures to try to contain a third wave of infections, a newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Markus Soeder, Bavaria premier and a possible conservative candidate to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Winfried Kretschmann, the leader of Baden-Wuerttemberg, wrote in a joint letter that the situation was “more serious than many believe”.

“That is why we must live up to our responsibility now and not discuss it any longer,” they wrote in a letter reported by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg are among the German states that have seen the highest number of deaths in the pandemic, with 13,239 and 8,684 respectively.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Germany as a whole jumped by 17,051 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 2.8 million with a death toll of 76,342.

However, the seven-day incidence rate of coronavirus infections fell for the first time in three weeks, dropping to 132.3 per 100,000 people from 135.2 on Tuesday.

Merkel pressed Germany’s states on Sunday to step up efforts to curb rapidly rising coronavirus infections, and raised the possibility of introducing curfews.

Merkel is unhappy that some states are not halting a gradual easing of restrictions even though the number of infections per 100,000 is well above 100 – the level which she and regional leaders agreed in early March should trigger a new lockdown.

The city state of Hamburg has decided to introduce a nighttime curfew from Friday.

Merkel said that if states did not start implementing measures with appropriate seriousness in the “very foreseeable future”, she would have to consider what steps could be taken on a nationwide basis. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Emma Thomasson; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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