Berlin, Germany | Wed, September 30, 2020 | 2:43 pm

Germany will impose a cap on the number of people at parties and family gatherings in areas worst affected by the coronavirus, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday after talks with premiers of the country’s 16 states. Merkel said “a reaction is now inevitable” to stop the spread of the virus, with recent outbreaks in the nation often traced to weddings and other private events. Any area where infection rates exceed 35 per 100,000 people in public spaces or leased venues will be forced to enforce a maximum limit of 50 people at meetings.

If rates shoot up to 50 per 100,000 people, then only 25 people would be allowed at public gatherings. Federal states failed to agree on rules for private parties at home but Merkel said they “strongly recommend” that people limit guest lists to just 10 at home in the hardest-hit regions. The chancellor also encouraged citizens to stay in Germany during the upcoming autumn school holidays, given the rapid increase in infection rates in neighboring European countries.

Furthermore, if consumers refuse to provide real contact information when they dine at restaurants to help with tracing, Germany can impose fines of at least 50 euros. “Operators need to make sure people offer real details … if names like Donald Duck are given, it’s not difficult to find,” Merkel said. Restaurant owners or hairdressers could ask for identification cards to confirm the information in case of doubt, she said, something that might cause some opposition in Germany, where privacy is fiercely protected. “We know that we are facing more difficult times, namely the autumn and winter months,” she said, adding that increasing numbers of infections are “reasons for concern, of course.”

Merkel stressed the importance of taking focused, local action against regional outbreaks, saying “it is important to stop” another national shutdown. She cautioned that if the current pattern persisted, new infection numbers in Germany β€” currently at around 2,000 a day β€” would jump to 19,200 daily by Christmas. After weeks of lockout, Germany started to relax strict steps, including shop closures or restrictions on the number of people meeting from late April, taking new infections down from a high of about 6,000 daily. But with larger meetings going ahead and travel picking up again, contagion has returned rapidly , particularly during summer holidays, taking current infection numbers to heights last seen at the end of April.

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