BERLIN (AP) – Calls grew Friday for tougher lockdown measures in Germany as the country’s disease control center reported record daily increases in both coronavirus cases and deaths.
The Robert Koch Institute said the country’s 16 states reported 29,875 new cases of COVID-19, breaking the previous daily record of 23,679 cases reported the day before.
The number of deaths from the virus rose by 598, to a total of 20,970. The previous daily record of deaths was 590, set on Wednesday.
“The only chance we have to get in control of the situation is a lockdown, but it needs to be immediate,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Der Spiegel magazine. “If we wait until Christmas, we’ll have to continue fighting these numbers for months.”
Under current restrictions implemented at the beginning of November as numbers were growing exponentially, restaurants, bars, leisure and sports facilities have been closed and hotels are closed to tourists, but schools and nonessential shops have remained open.
The numbers had plateaued – but at high daily levels – and have again been rising in recent days.
That prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel this week to call on state governments, which are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions, to consider closing schools early before Christmas and other measures.
“We are in a decisive, perhaps the decisive, phase of fighting the pandemic,” she said.
Merkel was expected to meet with governors to talk over new measures no later than Sunday.
The latest polls show nearly 50% of Germans are for tougher restrictions, while 35% support the current lockdown measures. There have been truculent protests against the regulations that have garnered much attention, but polls show fewer than 15% of Germans think they are too strict.
Several states have already announced new restrictions on their own, including Saxony, which has announced schools and most stores will be shut starting Monday until Jan. 10. The eastern state has more than twice the number of infections per capita in the past week than the national average.
The country’s most populous state, Baden-Wuerttemberg, said Friday it would extend lockdown measures until at least January 10, amid the rising numbers.
Governor Winfried Kretschmann did not immediately detail what the lockdown would entail, but said if the country’s states couldn’t agree on a national approach he would work with neighboring states on a common solution.
“The situation is unfortunately alarming,” he said, according to the dpa news agency. “We have indications of a renewed exponential increase of new infections, so we have to drastically tighten the measures.”
Karl Lauterbach, the health expert with Merkel’s junior coalition Social Democrats and an epidemiology professor, said a “hard lockdown” that starts after Christmas would be “too little and too late.”
“We need the hardest possible nationwide lockdown, including school closures, by next week,” Lauterbach told the Rheinischen Post newspaper.
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