BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Friday, upping the pressure on leaders of the country’s 16 federal states to implement stricter restrictions favoured by Chancellor Angela Merkel to tame a second wave before Christmas.
The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases recorded 23,648 confirmed new cases and 260 new deaths, which now stand at 13,630, an increase of more than a third in four weeks.
Under pressure from state leaders wary of the economic cost of more restrictions, Merkel’s government earlier this week dropped plans to make mask-wearing compulsory in schools, shrink class sizes and limit social contact to one household or friend.
Three weeks into a “lockdown light” that shuttered restaurants, gyms and theatres but is failing to bring down infections, state leaders are expected on Monday to come up with proposals for more restrictions.
A decision on new measures, which could include extending the lockdown, will be made on Wednesday during talks with Merkel.
Mass-selling Bild newspaper reported on Friday that Merkel wants any new measures to remain in place until January instead of the weekly approach favoured by state leaders.
Bild quoted Merkel as telling members of her conservatives that she wanted “proposals to be made, not only for two weeks but rather with a perspective until January.”
Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s spokesman, said on Friday that the number of infections had stabilised, but Germany has not yet reversed the trend.
The government’s goal is to reduce infections to 50 cases per 100,000 people over seven days – compared with the current incidence rate of around 140 cases, said Seibert.
As Germany struggles to lower infections, France, which imposed a stricter lockdown, is witnessing a drop in infections.
Still, the total number of infections in Germany remains below one million, while France has crossed the two million mark.
(Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Michelle Adair)