BERLIN (Reuters) -Germany crossed the threshold of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday with a surge in infections posing a challenge for the new government.
Another 351 people have died from coronavirus, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 100,119, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed. The number of new daily cases hit a new record of 75,961.
“The day on which we must mourn 100,000 victims of the coronavirus is a sad one,” outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference.
She urged her successors to act swiftly to impose further social distancing measures to break the virus’s exponential growth curve.
“The people who fall ill today are fundamnetally the intensive care patients of 10 to 14 days’ time,” she added. “So it is crucial we make sure our hospitals don’t get overburdened.”
Hospitals in some areas, especially in eastern and southern Germany, are under pressure and leading virologist Christian Drosten warned that another 100,000 could die in the pandemic.
The head of the Robert Koch Institute has put the mortality rate at about 0.8%, meaning that at daily case numbers around 50,000, some 400 people per day will end up dying.
Germany’s incoming three-party government, which announced its coalition deal https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/main-policy-goals-german-coalition-partners-2021-11-24 on Wednesday, said it would create a team of experts who would assess the situation on a daily basis.
Greens co-leader Annalena Baerbock said the new government, comprising the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP), had set itself 10 days to decide if further restrictions are needed.
Some, including many of Merkel’s conservative allies, say they should act more quickly.
Much of Germany has already introduced rules to restrict access to indoor activities to people who have been vaccinated or have recovered.
FDP leader Christian Lindner said tighter regional restrictions would probably be needed if a national lockdown, like that in neighbouring Austria, is to be avoided.
With a vaccine rate of just 68.2%, far behind some European countries such as Portugal and Spain, Chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz promised to ramp up vaccinations and did not rule out making it compulsory.
The number of people seeking vaccinations has soared in recent days, with 795,386 getting a shot on Wednesday, although the majority – 626,535 – were boosters.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, Emma Thomasson and Thomas Escritt; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alison Williams)