Germany’s Angela Merkel has described the Covid-19 situation in her country as “dramatic,” as the outgoing chancellor considers how to deal with an infection rate that has hit a new record.
“The fourth wave is hitting our country with full force,” Merkel told an event for the Association of German Cities, according to a translation by Deutsche Welle and several other media outlets.
“The number of daily new infections is higher than ever before … and the daily death toll is also frightening,” she said, adding that it was not too late to take up a Covid vaccine for anyone who had not already done so.
Merkel’s comments come after the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s public health body, reported a further 52,826 new cases Wednesday and a further 294 deaths. To date, Germany has recorded 5.1 million cases and almost 100,000 fatalities from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Merkel’s government and state leaders are slated to meet this week to discuss possible new nationwide restrictions.
Several states and cities have already imposed more Covid measures and have required the public to show Covid passes, which show an individual’s vaccination status or if they’ve just recovered from the virus (also widely known as “2G rules” as they refer to whether people are vaccinated — “geimpft” in German — or recovered, “genesen”) in order to access bars, restaurants and other public venues like movie theaters or museums.
Germany’s famous Christmas markets are another annual tradition where Covid rules are being tightened. Hamburg is among the cities applying 2G rules for anyone wishing to visit its main market, Reuters reported, while Munich’s Christmas market has been canceled.
Last week, leading German virologist Christian Drosten called for urgent action to be taken by the government, warning that the country could witness as many as 100,000 more deaths from the virus if nothing was done to tackle the spread.
While new infections are rocketing among the unvaccinated, particularly among younger children, Covid vaccination among adults has helped to keep severe infections, hospitalizations and deaths far lower than in previous Covid waves.
Germany is not alone in seeing a spike in new Covid cases with Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Austria also seeing a surge.
The Netherlands and Austria have reintroduced partial lockdowns, with the unvaccinated not allowed to leave their homes in Austria unless they are buying food or going to work. Ireland has also implemented new Covid rules, including an earlier closing time for bars, restaurants and clubs — less than a month after they returned to normal.
Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin also said people should work from home unless it is absolutely necessary. Vaccine proof will be required for cinemas and theatres.
Meanwhile, Slovakia is expected to restrict movements of those who are not vaccinated, amid a “critical” situation in the country’s hospitals. Lawmakers will vote on the three-week proposal on Thursday.