BERLIN (Reuters) – Germans face a “test of character” to contain a surge in the number of coronavirus cases, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Thursday after the biggest rise in new daily cases since April.
Warning people they must stick to distancing and hygiene rules to ensure the situation does not spiral out of control as winter approaches, he pointed the finger at young people.
“We are at an autumn milestone,” said Spahn. “We must not lose control … this is a test of character for our society”.
Germany has so far managed to keep the number of cases and deaths lower than many of its neighbours but the number of new daily coronavirus cases leapt by almost half, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) showed on Thursday.
Expressing confidence that the situation will not get as bad as it did during the lockdown in March and April and saying that hospitals could cope, he blamed people’s carelessness and ignorant behaviour for the rise.
“It’s mainly younger people who get infected because they think they are not vulnerable,” said Spahn.
Only very few cases came from shops, hairdressers, and public transport, he said, and even schools and nurseries were coping relatively well. The main problems stemmed from social gatherings, big events, weddings and religious gatherings.
This week, ministers agreed emergency measures to clamp down on domestic tourism to try to contain a second wave. Berlin, known for a thriving party scene, and financial hub Frankfurt have imposed a curfew on evening entertainment.
With colder weather driving people indoors, new cases have spiralled in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
Earlier, RKI data showed the number of daily coronavirus cases increased by 4,058 to 310,144, RKI data showed with the reported death toll up by 16 to 9,578.
“It’s possible we will see more than 10,000 new cases a day and that the virus will spread uncontrolled,” said RKI head Lothar Wieler, adding only 8% of cases were imported from abroad.
Germany has reported a total of 310,144 coronavirus cases, with a death toll of 9,578, according to the RKI.
(Reporting by Thomas Seythal, Madeline Chambers, Thomas Escritt; Editing by Kim Coghill and Maria Sheahan)