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COVID-19

Germany’s Covid death toll passes 100,000

Germany announced record coronavirus fatalities and infections Thursday as its total death toll passed 100,000, with its most severe virus wave yet breaking just as a new government prepares to take the reins.

A coffin in the town of Meißen, Saxony.
A coffin in the town of Meißen, Saxony. Photo: Robert Michael/dpa-Zentralbild

Germany weathered earlier bouts of the pandemic better than many other European countries, but has seen a recent resurgence, with intensive care beds rapidly filling up.   

Europe’s largest economy recorded 351 fatalities in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 100,119, according to figures from the Robert Koch Institute, a public health agency.

The weekly incidence rate also hit an all-time high of 419.7 new infections per 100,000 people, RKI announced.

The escalating health crisis poses an immediate challenge to the new coalition government set to take over from Angela Merkel’s cabinet next month.

The spike in Germany comes as Europe has re-emerged as the pandemic’s epicentre, with the continent battling sluggish vaccine uptake in some nations, the highly contagious Delta variant, colder weather moving people indoors and the easing of restrictions.

Last week, more than 2.5 million cases and almost 30,000 Covid-related deaths were recorded in Europe, making it by far the region currently worst hit by the virus, according to AFP’s tally.

‘Acute overload’

In a sign of the severity of the virus wave hitting Germany, its health sector has had to call on hospitals elsewhere in the EU for help.

Some hospitals are already facing an “acute overload” that has made it necessary to transfer Covid-19 patients abroad, according to Gernot Marx, head of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine.

Germany last week announced tougher restrictions, including requiring people to prove they are vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 or have recently tested negative for the virus before they can travel on public transport or enter workplaces.

Several of the worst-hit areas have gone further, cancelling large events like Christmas markets and barring the unvaccinated from bars, gyms and leisure facilities.

The spike has ignited a fierce debate about whether to follow Austria’s example and make vaccination mandatory for all citizens.

Incoming chancellor Olaf Scholz has voiced support for compulsory vaccinations for health staff, and said that his government would “do
everything necessary to bring our country safely through this time”.

“The situation is serious,” said Scholz’s Social Democrats after announcing a coalition agreement with the Greens and the FDP liberals on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, outgoing Chancellor Merkel, who is retiring from politics after four terms, summoned the new centre-left-led alliance’s top
brass for pandemic talks.

Scholz said his new government would invest one billion euros in bonuses for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

But his critics accused him of lacking the urgency needed to tackle the national catastrophe.

“It sounded like he wanted to be the leader of the Hamburg health authorities,” snapped Spiegel online.

Germany’s Covid-19 crisis has in part been blamed on its relatively low vaccination rate of about 69 percent, compared to other Western European countries such as France, where it is 75 percent. 

The country has urged all inoculated adults to get a booster to combat waning efficacy after six months.

SEE ALSO: How Covid ‘3G’ rules could work on German public transport

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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