Merkel supports a tougher curb of the virus as German deaths hit record


BERLIN (AP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for stricter public restrictions and begged her compatriots to reduce social life, as the country had the highest overnight death from the coronavirus epidemic.

Germany is gradually moving towards a stricter closure, at least for a limited time after Christmas, as new virus cases are stubbornly high – and creeping even higher – despite a partial shutdown that began on November 2nd.

The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, has reported 590 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours – more than 100 times higher than the previous week’s record. It counted 20,815 new daily infections, up from 17,270 a week earlier. Germany, with 83 million people, has now recorded almost 1.22 million cases, including 19,932 deaths in the pandemic.

“We are at a crucial, perhaps crucial, stage in the fight against the pandemic,” Merkel told parliament on Wednesday. “The data is too high,” an apparently frustrated chancellor added, describing the growing number of people in need of intensive care and dying as “very alarming.”

Merkel has consistently called for decisive action in the fight against the epidemic, but has often had to move more slowly because in highly decentralized Germany, the country’s 16 state governments are responsible for introducing and lifting restrictions. He and the state governors meet regularly to coordinate action.

Restaurants, bars, leisure and sports facilities are currently closed in Germany and hotels are closed to tourists, but schools and non-essential shops are still open.

Germany managed to avoid the high number of infections and grim deaths experienced in other major European nations in the spring, and the overall mortality rate is still much lower, such as in Britain, France or Spain.

But the current numbers are not encouraging. Germany has new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, higher than France, Belgium and Spain, and roughly with Britain, although still well below Italy, Sweden and many more, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

Merkel noted that a national academy of scientists and academics on Tuesday recommended that the Germans reduce their social ties from next week and hold a “hard lock” from December 24 to January 10.

“We would do well to take really seriously what scientists are telling us,” he said.

Merkel has asked state governments to consider closing schools before Christmas and said people are jumping from one mulled wine stand to another during the holidays, given daily mortality figures.

“If we have too many relationships before Christmas, and then it’s the last Christmas with our grandparents, we’ve become careless,” he said.

The governors of some states are already moving toward stricter restrictions. The state of Eastern Saxony, which is currently hardest hit, will close schools and most shops by Monday, January 10th. Its southern neighbor, Bavaria, is introducing measures such as a night curfew in the most severely affected areas and is demanding further home schooling. stricter border controls.

Most Germans supported the restrictions and requirements to wear masks, although they were opposed by a small but loud minority, and a wide range of participants, including right-wing extremists and representatives of conspiracy theories, protested.

On Wednesday, domestic intelligence officials from the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said they were putting protest group Querdenken 711 under official surveillance.

The group insists there is no room for extremism. But Beate Bube, head of the state’s domestic intelligence agency, said his office observed that the group had membership and showed ideological overlaps with known right-wing extremist groups.

“Extreme, conspiracy ideology and anti-Semitic content are deliberately mixed with legitimate criticism of state measures to curb the crown (virus) epidemic,” he said.

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David Rising and Kirsten Grieshaber from Berlin contributed to the report.

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