BERLIN, Dec 17: As the partial lockdown appears to have failed to reverse the trend of the increasing number of new Covid-19 cases, Germans are in for an unusual holiday season as the country has entered a hard lockdown to curb the virus spread.
Uder the new lockdown which came into effect on Wednesday, at least until January 10, 2021, private gatherings have been limited to two households or to a maximum of five people, reports Xinhua news agency.
All non-essential stores and services in Germany have to remain closed.
All schools in Germany are also closed as compulsory attendance has been suspended. With some exceptions, the same applies to daycare facilities for children.
"We are forced to act and are acting now," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel when announcing the hard lockdown.
The soft lockdown that had been in place since the beginning of November was "not enough", she added.
For the three Christmas days (December 24-26), the hard lockdown will be slightly softened to allow Germans to celebrate with their loved ones.
The government will permit close family gatherings with up to four people beyond one's household members, effectively raising the limit of two households or five people.
Almost all the popular Christmas markets across the country have been cancelled.
Last year, around 2,600 Christmas markets held across the country generated 2.5 billion euros ($3 billion) in revenues plus approximately 4 billion euros indirectly through shopping in the city centres and overnight stays in hotels, a spokesperson for the German Market Traders Association told Xinhua.
According to the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), the number of overnight stays in Germany in December last year increased by 3.5 per cent compared to 2018.
In December 2019, Germany's Christmas markets and other destinations attracted the largest number of visitors from the Netherlands, the US and Switzerland.
German retailers affected by the lockdown now expect to lose around 20 per cent of their annual sales compared to the previous year.
At the same time, online retailers in Germany would see their revenues go up by around 20 per cent.
The German E-Commerce and Distance Selling Trade Association (bevh) estimated that Christmas sales would reach more than 100 billion euros again, with e-commerce bringing in more than 20 per cent in the process.
Meanwhile, single-day Covid-19 cases in Germany remain near last week's record high and increased by 27,728 on Wednesday to a total of 1,407,803, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the federal government agency for disease control and prevention.
The number of deaths related reached a new record, up by 952 within one day, raising the overall number of fatalities to 23,865. - IANS