Ms Merkel, who has overseen a wide range of stimulus measures to support struggling businesses and workers, said the government will compensate small and medium-sized businesses affected by the closures for up to 75% of losses.
The measures aim to ease the pressure on hospitals across the country, where the number of patients has doubled in just 10 days, and to stem the rapid spread of the virus before the next vacation, without bringing the economy completely to a halt.
Ms Merkel scoffed when she predicted last month that if people didn’t change their behavior, the country would face 19,000 infections a day by Christmas. Now it looks like that number will be hit in November.
“In a few weeks we will reach the limits of our health system,” Merkel said at a press conference, after agreeing with the 16 German governors on measures nationwide.
“The selection was made with care knowing that it will be difficult and knowing that many people have developed ways to stay safe and act responsibly,” she said. “But in deciding how to reduce the number of contacts, without affecting the economy and schools, we have made these decisions and believe they are reasonable and politically acceptable.”
As the Chancellor held a video meeting with the governors on Wednesday, several thousand people employed in the entertainment industry marched through the heart of Berlin, denouncing the measures that have left them unemployed since early March.
More and more people protested against the restrictions, and Merkel admitted that introducing new measures two weeks earlier would have helped, but political acceptance of such a move was not there.