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UPDATE 1-Merkel says Germany in third wave of pandemic - sources

·1 min read

(Adds quote, context)

BERLIN, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Germany is in a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers in her conservative party, two sources at the meeting told Reuters on Tuesday.

"We are now in the third wave," they quoted her as saying and said she warned that any easing of lockdown measures introduced late last year and extended until March 7 would have to be done carefully and gradually.

The closure of all non-essential businesses and border controls with Austria and the Czech Republic, where there have been outbreaks linked to a more infectious variant of the virus, have helped Germany bring down new daily COVID-19 infections.

But a slow vaccination roll-out and the risk of major outbreaks of fast-spreading variants already identified in Germany could make any easing of restrictions more difficult.

"We cannot afford ups and downs," Merkel told participants, suggesting she wanted any return to normal life to be done carefully to avoid having to reintroduce lockdown measures if infections start to rise again.

She added that making rapid tests more available and boosting testing capacity could make a return to normality more durable, said the sources. (Reporting by Andreas Rinke Writing by Joseph Nasr Editing by Madeline Chambers)