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German leaders to agree on new restrictions to stem Omicron variant

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet regional leaders on Friday (7/1) to agree on new measures to tackle the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus, including tighter restrictions on restaurants and bars.

Among steps being considered is a requirement for people with only two coronavirus shots to show proof of a negative test to enter a restaurant or bar, in an effort to encourage more people to get a booster.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the hospitality industry was a "problem area, as people often sit there for hours without a mask", in an interview with broadcaster RTL Direkt on Thursday.

Hendrik Wuest, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, told the news outlet Welt that tighter dining rules were reasonable since being around maskless people required maximum protection and the booster shot was available to everyone.

Rules on quarantine are also set to be relaxed, meanwhile, to avoid having too many people in isolation at the same time, especially in critical sectors.

Omicron now accounts for 44% of coronavirus infections in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious disease said in its weekly report, based on coronavirus tests.

It said 41.6% of people had received a booster shot.

Guido Zoellick, president of the DEHOGA hospitality industry association, called for financial support to prop up businesses that are already faltering from existing measures.