İrem UZUN -TDO- Germany extended and toughened a partial lockdown until February 14th, Chancellor Angela Merkel said. "We have to act now, that's what moved me and us during the consultations," said Merkel, referring to the hours-long meeting between her and Germany's 16 state premieres.

The next round of talks was originally scheduled for January 25, but leaders called for the meeting to be moved up, as the current restrictions are set to expire at the end of the month.  Germany has closed schools, non-essential shops, bars and restaurants under a lockdown that has been in effect since early November, but leaders are mulling even tougher restrictions, as the number of new infections has not been substantially reduced.

Other issues being discussed include a rule to require employers to allow staff to work from home if that is feasible, and a requirement to wear standard masks in shops and on public transport. The tighter mask-wearing rule was already introduced in the southern state of Bavaria at the start of the week.

On Thursday, Merkel defended Germany's extended and stricter lockdown, stressing that now is the time to take action. "That shows that the hard measures that people in Germany have had to deal with for weeks are starting to pay off. And it basically shows that the effort is paying off," Merkel said.  

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