Germany enters tough lockdown as virus deaths are new highs

BERLIN (AP) – Germany reported record levels of coronovirus deaths as it entered a tough lockdown on Wednesday, trying to bring stubbornly high new daily infections by closing shops and schools.

The country has recorded 179.8 virus deaths per 100,000 residents in the past seven days, a new high recorded by the country’s Center for Disease Control Robert Koch Institute a week earlier and substantially 149 per 100,000.

The institute said 16 states in Germany blew up their previous daily death toll, stating that 952 more people were killed by the virus. This was far more than the previous daily record set Friday of 598 deaths, though the two-day figures from the hard-hit eastern state of Saxony were not reported on Tuesday. This brought the death toll from the country’s overall epidemic to 23,427.

Facing rapidly escalating cases in October, Germany implemented a “lockdown light” in early November, which closed bars and restaurants but shops remained open. The measures succeeded in leveling new daily infections, but were not brought down due to new strict restrictions.

In addition to closing shops for a few days before the Christmas holidays and transferring children to distance learning, private ceremonies are being limited to two homes with a maximum of two people, among other things.

Grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks and other businesses that provide essential services – including Christmas tree vendors – may remain open.

In Saxony, where the virus is spreading fastest in Germany at the moment, hospitals are filling up. The state governor said that more stringent sanctions may be necessary, calling it “pure poison” when many people were still going out and about.

The ban is expected to last until at least January 10, but enjoy widespread support, with more than 80% of Germans approving the lockdown measures in the latest election or that they feel they should be strict.

“This year, I don’t think Christmas is important, in the face of the fact that we have it in society right now,” said Stella Croschmer, who was picking up a prescription in the western city of Cologne.

The 27-year-old student said that she was in favor of the closure of the shops.

“To me, consumption is not the most important thing,” she said, though she says she “feels sorry for the people … who fear for their jobs.”

Germany was widely praised for slowing the spread of its outbreak in the spring, but as people loosened up in the summer with distances and mask rules, the number of cases began to climb again.

While daily new cases reached nearly 6,000 in March, they have now more than quadrupled from that level, with 27,728 new cases reported by the Robert Koch Institute on Wednesday.

German authorities have hard pressed the European Union’s regulatory agency to speed up its approval of the coronovirus vaccine, and the European Medical Agency has scheduled a meeting on Monday. Vaccination is expected to begin before the end of the year, with German authorities urging people to remain patient and respect the rules on holidays.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said Germany was ready and could begin vaccination within two to four days of EMA approval.

“In the summer, we will be able to return to normal, step by step”, he said on RTL television on Wednesday.


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