UPDATE 2-Germany to shut most schools to slow coronavirus spread

(Adds more states to close schools)

BERLIN, March 13 (Reuters) - Schools and kindergartens will be shut in most German states until after the Easter holiday next month, a measure designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"The challenge is immense," Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder told a news conference.

"As of next Monday the schools and children's day-care centres will be closed - this will apply provisionally until the end of the Easter holidays, that is until April 20," he said, adding the authorities would then take stock of the situation.

Ten other states, including North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous region, have taken similar measures.

In the capital Berlin, schools and day-care centres will gradually shut down starting on Monday and public transport will be reduced to a minimum, Mayor Michael Mueller said.

Calls have been growing for Germany to follow the bulk of its European neighbours in shuttering schools to help slow the spread of the virus. Yet the country's highly devolved system means only regional governments can make that call.

Germany's states have also agreed that public gatherings of more than 100 people should not go ahead. Municipal elections on Sunday in the southern state of Bavaria would go ahead. (Reporting by Thomas Escritt and Paul Carrel; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Alison Williams)

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