German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders are expected on Monday to impose new measures, including compulsory mask-wearing at schools and drastic restrictions on household gatherings, to tame a second coronavirus wave before Christmas.
A draft document of the measures, seen by Reuters, also said people would be urged to avoid private parties completely in coming weeks.
Germany this month imposed a “lockdown light” to rein in a second wave that is sweeping much of Europe. Bars and restaurants are closed, but schools and shops remain open.
Numbers of new infections are no longer growing exponentially, but a fall in infections is not yet foreseeable, the document said.
“The numbers are stabilising but too slowly,” the DPA news agency quoted Merkel as telling members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) conservative party.
The document says Germany expects to gradually overcome the pandemic after winter thanks to warmer weather and hopefully the start of vaccinations.
According to the proposals, which could still change pending talks between the federal and 16 regional governments, private gatherings in public will only be possible for people from one household with two people from another household, compared to a maximum of 10 people from two households now.
An exemption from wearing masks at school for some elementary pupils will be scrapped and all classes will be halved to allow more space between students.
All people considered vulnerable will be eligible once a week for one heavy-duty face mask, also known as FFP2.
Merkel and regional state heads will meet again next Monday and possibly decide on further measures.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 520,000 COVID-19 cases were detected in Germany by the end of October, but numbers spiked by 50% to 780,000 cases in the first two weeks of November.
In the same period, the number of COVID-19-intensive care patients in German hospitals increased by 70%, leading to regional bottlenecks.
“The measures are showing initial results,” Markus Soeder, the conservative leader of the southern state of Bavaria told German broadcaster ZDF. “The steep rise has slowed down. But I fear it is not enough.”
Over the weekend, German policy makers warned against the easing of current measures.
The decision to keep schools and daycare centres open was designed to allow parents to continue working and avoid further damage to an economy expected this year to witness its worst recession since World War Two.
Deputy Finance Minister Joerg Kukies said during a business conference on Monday that the government still had the fiscal means to pump more emergency aid into the economy.
“We are still not out of the woods and it is clear that we must think about what we can do in terms of support,” he said.