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Coronavirus: Germany plans tighter Covid rules to tackle new surge

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image captionGermany is routinely testing school students

Germany is expected to tighten Covid restrictions at talks chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, backtracking on a recent easing.

Under a draft government plan, the current partial lockdown would be extended to 18 April. The level of restrictions varies regionally.

Nationally the infection rate has risen above 100 per 100,000 inhabitants. In neighbouring Poland the rate is more than three times higher.

Germany now has tighter border checks.

“Unfortunately we are going to have to use these emergency brakes,” Chancellor Merkel warned. She is discussing the crisis with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states.

The measures are likely to include shutting many schools which only reopened in late February.

Alarm in Poland

Poles cannot now enter Germany unless they have tested negative for Covid-19 within the past 48 hours. Thousands of Poles commute daily to Germany for work.

Poland is one of the hardest-hit EU countries in the current third coronavirus wave – it reported 14,578 new cases on Monday, which is 34% higher than a week ago. Health officials say the highly contagious British variant accounts for 80% of the new cases.

Poland now has more patients in hospital and more people on ventilators than at any time since the start of the pandemic, the BBC’s Adam Easton reports from Warsaw.

Poland has extended a partial lockdown for another three weeks, keeping schools, shops and most other public facilities shut.

The rollout of vaccinations across the EU remains sluggish – far behind the scale of vaccinations achieved by Israel, the UK and US.

Part of the reason for that is supply problems with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – now at the centre of political tensions between the UK and EU over the firm’s contractual obligations.

The EU is now considering an export ban targeting AstraZeneca production in Europe. EU officials complain that too much of the vaccine is going to the UK and other countries, rather than staying in the EU.

Among the tighter controls envisaged in Germany are compulsory testing and quarantine for holidaymakers returning from abroad. Germans are already booking trips to Majorca, where resorts are slowly reopening, and there is concern about a possible travel boom at Easter weekend, 2-4 April.

Meanwhile, Hungary has become the first EU country to approve use of China’s CanSino Biologics coronavirus vaccine and CoviShield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Reuters news agency reports.

EU states are allowed to strike separate deals with vaccine makers which have not signed agreements with the EU. Hungary is already using China’s Sinopharm vaccine and the Russian Sputnik vaccine.

The EU regulator, the European Medicines Agency, has so far approved the vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

media captionWATCH: Pfizer v Oxford v Moderna – three Covid-19 vaccines compared

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