German Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss with state leaders on Sunday tightening lockdown restrictions to stem a rise in coronavirus infections, with school and shop closures on the agenda, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Germany has been in partial lockdown for six weeks, with bars and restaurants closed. Some regions have already imposed tougher measures.
The discussions on Sunday will include whether shops should be closed before the Christmas holiday and the timing of such a move, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We must take steps in the coming days that are very far-reaching and very hard-hitting," German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told members of his Social Democratic party at an online event.
Germany, which has Europe's largest economy, was more successful than many European countries in keeping the pandemic under control in the first wave in March and April, but it has been struggling to turn the tide in the second wave with what has been dubbed a "lockdown lite".
Daily new coronavirus infections have climbed to 28,438, while the daily death toll was 496, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told the RND newspaper group on Saturday that hospital intensive care units were beginning to be stretched to their limits and that Germany couldn't wait until after Christmas to react.
"We have to clarify how things will continue now," he said. "Otherwise the pandemic will get completely out of control."
Merkel has favored stricter pan-German measures but was unable to get agreement from nation's 16 states.
But some states have since clamped down on their own.
Starting Saturday, people in Baden-Wuerttemberg, in southwest Germany, are banned from going outside between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. except for work and essential reasons and will also be encouraged to stay at home during the day.
Since Wednesday, people in Bavaria have been allowed to leave home only for essential reasons.