The German government hesitated to shut down as cases of the Corona virus rose
Berlin – The German government refused to back calls on Friday for a quick and sharp lockdown to limit the deteriorating coronavirus situation in the country, which has seen daily confirmed cases reach a new peak and hospitals are under severe pressure.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said contacts between people needed to be curtailed sharply, warning that “the situation is very serious, and more serious than it was at any stage of the epidemic.”
But he declined to say whether it would support blanket restrictions of the kind seen during earlier phases of the pandemic, when schools, non-essential stores and other areas of public life were closed. Austria faced a similar spike in cases, which this week ordered a ten-day lockdown for everyone, renewable for another ten days.
Similarly, a spokesperson for outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to be concerned about whether she favored the launch of the so-called emergency braking measures that were last used in April.
Government spokesman Stephen Seibert said there were “political facts to be recognized”, such as the new majority in parliament since the September 26 German election that Merkel’s party narrowly lost. Her junior partner in her government, the centre-left Social Democrats, negotiated to form a new government with two other parties.
The new government is expected to take office in early December, but the transition period – with Merkel in the caretaker – has been blamed for crippling Germany’s response to the pandemic.
The country’s disease control agency said another 76,414 cases of infection were reported in the past 24 hours, a new record. Germany also recorded 357 new deaths from COVID-19, the Robert Koch Institute said, bringing the total since the start of the outbreak to 100,476.
In response to a newly discovered variant spreading in South Africa, Spahn said that airlines coming from there would only be able to carry German nationals. He said travelers will need to go into a 14-day quarantine whether or not they have been vaccinated.
“The last thing we need is to introduce a new variable that will cause more problems,” he said.
Spahn noted that Germany has had to organize large-scale transfers of patients within the country for the first time since the outbreak began in early 2020, including with help from the military.
A Luftwaffe A310 medical aircraft will transport critically ill patients from the southern town of Memmingen to the state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Friday afternoon, the Ministry of Defense said.
Hospitals in the southern and eastern regions of Germany have warned that intensive care beds are running out due to the large numbers of seriously ill Covid-19 patients.
The governor of Saxony, the state with the highest per capita infection rate in Germany, has called a meeting of federal and state officials scheduled for December 9.
“The hesitation will be punished,” Michael Kretschmer told German media group RND.
“We need to reduce public and economic life as much as possible and provide financial assistance to the affected companies,” he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Germany is releasing 18 million doses of the vaccine over ten days to meet the demand for boosters and the first shots of people who have yet to receive any vaccine.
About 68.3% of the country’s population of 83 million have been fully vaccinated, which is less than 75% of the minimum set by the government.
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