German lockdown beginning to take effect, new CDU leader says

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News conference after CDU leadership meeting in Berlin

DUSSELDORF (Reuters) - Germany's coronavirus lockdown is starting to take effect, the new leader of the ruling Christian Democrats said on Wednesday, noting that the seven-day infection rate had fallen to 97.2 per 100,000 in his state of North Rhine Westphalia.

"The current development is encouraging," Armin Laschet, also state premier, told the regional parliament, adding that Chancellor Angela Merkel's office and regional leaders were working on a "sequence of steps for possible openings" after the current lockdown is due to end on Feb. 14.

But he said there should be no hasty decisions.

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 13,202 to 2,161,279, data showed on Wednesday, down from a rise of 15,974 a week ago, although the reported death toll rose by 982 to 53,972.

The CDU chose Laschet last week as the new leader of Merkel's party. Merkel has said she will not run for chancellor again in September’s federal election.

Merkel said last year that Laschet, 59, had "the tools" to run for chancellor, the closest she has come to endorsing anyone.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Nick Macfie)