Berlin (dpa) – The strict restrictions on personal contacts in the fight against the corona pandemic will be relaxed at Christmas. The prime minister agreed on this with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), the DPA heard from participants from different states.

A federal government confirmation and resolution of the entire paper were still pending after about four hours of deliberation.

Even before the federal state talks, it had become clear that people in Germany should initially prepare for a continuation and even tightening of the partial lockdown in December. The goal is to get the infection process under control so that it doesn’t get out of hand when families meet during the Christmas season.

According to information from regional circles on Wednesday, meetings “with close family or friends” should be possible from 23 December, with a maximum of ten people in total. Children up to 14 years of age must be exempted from this. According to the information, the exemption should now apply “at the latest” until January 1. If this wording is maintained, it would be unclear at first whether the relaxation will eventually apply everywhere on New Year’s Eve.

In any case, there should be fewer New Year’s fireworks: Federal and state governments want to recommend citizens to refrain from fireworks around the turn of the year. The use of fireworks on busy squares and streets should be banned to prevent larger groups from forming, the DPA learned from participants. The local authorities should therefore determine the affected places and streets.

The Prime Minister of Bavaria, Markus Söder (CSU), had spoken out before the meeting in favor of strict contact restrictions on New Year’s Eve – unlike most countries that aspire to it. “Because Christmas is the festival of the family, New Year’s Eve is of course more the festival of friends”, he said Wednesday in the ARD “Morgenmagazin”. He would rather be more consistent at the turn of the year than at Christmas.

Merkel wants to speak in the Bundestag on Thursday about the corona crisis. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the number of corona deaths reported within 24 hours has risen to a high of 410 on Wednesday morning. The number of new corona infections reported within 24 hours was 18,633.

The partial lockdown worked “about half as much as we expected,” said SPD health politician Karl Lauterbach in the ARD morning magazine. The cause is, for example, sources of contamination in schools. These were also under discussion – there were suggestions for the start of the Christmas holidays and for the extension of the mask requirement.

The Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet (CDU), had again announced in the morning that the schools would be left open – which also became clear as a rule. “The kitchen table at home in a two or three-room apartment is no better place to learn. The best place to learn is the school, ”said Laschet in the state parliament in Düsseldorf. The federal talks are not about opening steps, the risk of relapse is too great.

Most restaurants, leisure and cultural facilities have been closed since the beginning of November. The so-called November support for companies, institutions and people affected by the partial lockdown will continue in December. The federal government is planning a financial aid of an expected 17 billion euros, the dpa heard from government circles.

It was initially unclear whether restaurants and hotels would reopen during the holidays and New Year. According to several participants, the federal and state governments agreed to keep wholesalers and retailers open, but impose stricter requirements on larger companies.

Accordingly, in the future it should be the case that in small and medium-sized shops with sales area of ​​up to 800 square meters, there should be no more than one person per 10 square meters of sales area. In larger stores with a total sales area of ​​801 square meters or more, such as department stores, the following is planned: up to an area of ​​800 square meters, there should be no more than one person per 10 square meters – in an area of ​​more than 800 square meters meters, no more than one person per 20 square meters.

In addition, the mask requirement is being expanded in wholesale and retail. In the future it will also apply to shops and parking lots. The population is also urged to do their Christmas shopping during the week if possible.