German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel Reuters

Germany will go into a partial lockdown as of Wednesday with non-essential shops and schools to close amid a rise in coronavirus infections, AFP reports.

The new curbs will apply until January 10, with companies also urged to allow employees to work from home or offer extended company holidays, under the new measures agreed upon by Chancellor Angela Merkel with regional leaders of Germany's 16 states on Sunday.

"That would help to implement the principle 'we're staying at home,'" according to the policy paper agreed by Merkel and state premiers.

Germans are urged to limit their social contacts to another household, with a maximum of five people excluding children under 14 meeting at each time.

From Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, the contacts would be eased to allow gatherings with another four people excluding children, but who should be limited to close relatives or partners.

In November, Germany went to a partial shutdown, closing leisure and cultural facilities and banning indoor dining in restaurants. The measures were later extended.

The measures helped to halt rapid growth of infections after the autumn school holidays, but numbers had plateaued at a high rate.

Merkel had repeatedly pushed for tougher curbs to break the chain of contagion, but implementation of the rules is in the hands of individual states and some were reluctant to impose more curbs, according to AFP.

The mood, however, has changed in the last week after Germany recorded new daily death tolls reaching close to 600 and as the country's disease control agency RKI reported that the infections trend had taken a worrying turn.

Germany has imposed far less stringent shutdown rules than other major European nations after coming through the first wave of the pandemic relatively unscathed, but has been severely hit by a second wave with daily new infections more than three times that of the peak in the spring.

Germany recorded another 20,200 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, reaching a total of 1,320,716 cases, according to the RKI.

Another 321 patients died from the disease from a day earlier, bringing the total death toll to 21,787.