“We need a lockdown in order to break this wave,” said Health Minister Spahn, saying that tougher measures could provide a “bridge” to an eventual reopening of public life.
Official figures on Friday showed 25,464 new cases in the past 24 hours, while intensive care doctors warned that hospitals could soon be inundated.
“We are profoundly concerned about the current situation,” said Gernot Marx, president of Germany’s intensive medicine association DIVI.
“We are on the brink of overwhelming our health system,” he added, explaining that Germany currently had only 3,000 free intensive care beds after a “dramatic rise” in admissions in recent weeks.
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In an “urgent appeal” to political leaders, he called for a “hard lockdown of two to three weeks”.
The head of the Robert Koch Institute infectious disease agency, Lothar Wieler, also called for tighter measures in the face of a “very serious situation”.
“If we don’t go into lockdown, a lot of people will lose their lives,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, German leaders agreed to tighten the national coronavirus law in a bid to give the federal government powers to enact health measures.