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Merkel urges vigilance as officials probe restaurant virus outbreak

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Health officials in north-western Germany were pursuing an investigation into a coronavirus outbreak at a restaurant in Lower Saxony on Monday, as the number of people testing positive rose.

Seven people initially tested positive for coronavirus after visiting the Alte Scheune restaurant in Moormerland, a municipality in the district of Leer in the north-western state, earlier this month.

That number had increased to 14 by Sunday, while four additional cases of people who had contracted the virus since then were also reported.

A total of 118 people have been placed under quarantine at home, up from an initial 50.

Regional authorities in Leer said it was likely that the four additional infections had occurred following visits to the restaurant.

Lower Saxony’s Health Minister Carola Reimann said on Monday that not only the restaurant owners but also the patrons could face fines if found guilty of violating coronavirus restrictions.

Reimann said the event that had propelled the new infections had been in violation of a ban on large gatherings and that there was evidence to suggest participants had had physical contact including hugging and shaking hands.

The outbreak is the first to have taken place in a restaurant since they were allowed to reopen in stages across Germany’s 16 states from May 9.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the governments of Germany’s states to be “courageous and watchful” as they ease restrictions imposed since mid-March to contain the pandemic.

Speaking through her spokesman Steffen Seibert, Merkel backed continuing “binding instructions” on social distancing, restriction of contact and hygiene rules.

Recommendations were insufficient, Seibert said, as federal officials continued discussions with their state-level counterparts on how to proceed with further easing.

The number of cases of the novel coronavirus had risen to more than 178,500 by Monday morning, according to figures from the individual states compiled by dpa.

At least 8,252 people diagnosed with Covid-19 have died, up from 8,229 on Sunday morning.

Source: dpa

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