Germany and France are set to extend their protective measures over coronavirus to last until months later in the next year.\r\n\r\n"Germany will probably have to stick with measures to dampen the <a href="https:\/\/see.news\/?s=coronavirus">coronavirus pandemic<\/a> into January," Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday, while her chief of staff suggested that restrictions might be needed until March.\r\n\r\n"Given the high number of infections, we assume that the restrictions which are in place before Christmas will continue to be valid until the start of January, certainly for most parts of Germany," <a href="https:\/\/www.swissinfo.ch\/eng\/reuters\/german-covid-19-restrictions-set-to-last-into-2021\/46186162">Merkel told parliament<\/a>.\r\n\r\nMerkel agreed with leaders of Germany's 16 federal states late on Wednesday to extend and tighten the coronavirus lockdown until Dec. 20, but ease rules over the Christmas holidays to let families and friends celebrate together.\r\n\r\nThe number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 22,268 to 983,588, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday, while the death toll rose by 389 to 15,160.\r\n\r\nMerkel's chief of staff said rules limiting social contact might be needed for longer.\r\n\r\n"We have difficult winter months ahead of us. This will continue until March," Helge Braun told RTL television.\r\n\r\n"After March, I am very optimistic because we will probably be able to vaccinate more and more people and it will be easier to keep infection rates low with the spring."\r\n\r\nMerkel said vaccines could arrive before Christmas.\r\n\r\nGermany imposed a month-long "lockdown lite" on Nov. 2 to rein in a second wave that is sweeping much of Europe. Bars and restaurants are closed but schools and shops remain open.\r\n\r\nFrom Dec. 1, private gatherings will be limited to five people. Over Christmas, that number will rise to 10, not counting children, although families are asked to avoid social contact for a week ahead of visits.\r\n\r\nMean while, People in France could return to some form of normal life by autumn 2021 "provided that a major vaccination programme to tackle the COVID-19 virus works well," French government scientific adviser Arnaud Fontanet<a href="https:\/\/www.swissinfo.ch\/eng\/reuters\/post-covid-normal-life-could-return-to-france-by-autumn-2021--says-scientific-adviser\/46186158"> told BFM TV on Thursday<\/a>.\r\n\r\nFontanet, a leading epidemiologist, said France needed to get vaccines to 80%-90% of its population for a semblance of normality to return by autumn of 2021.