The head of the German disease control agency has warned the country will face a “truly terrible Christmas” unless action is taken to counter the sharp rise in coronavirus infections.
“We are currently heading towards a serious emergency,” said Robert Koch Institute director Lothar Wieler.
“We’re going to have a really terrible Christmas if we don’t take countermeasures now.”
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Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel called the coronavirus situation in Germany “Dramatic” and urged people to get vaccinated before a crisis meeting today.
The nation was hit hard by a fourth wave of COVID-19[female[feminine, which is currently spreading throughout Europe.
The institute said Thursday that 65,371 new confirmed cases had been reported in a single day, a new record and continuing the upward trend that experts have warned for weeks.
“The current pandemic situation in Germany is dramatic, I cannot say it otherwise,” Merkel said on Wednesday.
“The fourth wave is hitting our country hard.”
Authorities plan to put additional brakes in place to stop the virus, especially as Germany lags on jab rates, with nearly 68% of the population fully vaccinated – below the European average western.
Mr Wieler said Germany needs to increase its vaccination rates to a level well over 75%, from 67.7% currently. Some regions have vaccination rates as low as 57.6%.
The National Vaccine Advisory Committee, STIKO, has recommended booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine for all people over the age of 18 at least six months after their last vaccine.
German lawmakers debate measures that would replace national epidemic rules, which will expire at the end of the month on Thursday
Mr Wieler called for the closure of clubs and bars, an end to large-scale events and limited access to many aspects of public life to people with a vaccine or recovery certificate .
Hospitals across Germany are reaching breaking point, he warned.
“The meeting is late,” Merkel said on Wednesday, adding that she hoped officials would agree on a threshold to impose additional measures taking into account the number of people hospitalized.
“It would be a disaster to act only when the intensive care units are full, because then it would be too late,” she said in a speech to mayors across Germany.
Ms Merkel, whose government operates on an interim basis until a new three-way coalition takes over next month, added: “It is not too late to decide to get vaccinated for the first time.” .
German Health Minister Jens Spahn also called on doctors not to be too strict about waiting at least six months before giving patients their booster shots.
Germany has so far recorded far fewer coronavirus deaths than the UK.
The Robert Koch Institute said an additional 294 people have died in Germany as a result of coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the death toll from the pandemic in the country to 98,274.
The UK total stands at 143,360, according to the latest government figures.
Nevertheless, infections have increased in recent weeks, especially among unvaccinated people, with southern and eastern Germany being the hardest hit.
The district of Meissen, near Dresden, reported nearly 1,305 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants last week.
The state of Saxony, where Meissen is located, is leading the way in introducing new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
There are plans to introduce new social distancing rules and require people to present vaccination or recovery certificates to enter all stores except supermarkets and pharmacies.
Saxony has the lowest vaccination rate in Germany, with 57.6% of the population having completed a full cycle, compared to the national average of 67.7%.
North Rhine-Westphalia is expected to follow suit, according to The Guardian. Unvaccinated people should be refused entry to all non-essential facilities and events, including football matches and Christmas markets.