Germany becomes 5th European country to surpass 100,000 COVID-19 deaths
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel labeled Thursday as “a very sad day” and backed calls for more restrictions as her country became the last to exceed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
The national agency for disease control said it has recorded 351 deaths related to the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number to 100,119. In Europe, Germany is the fifth country to cross that border, after Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy and France.
“It is of course a very sad day that we have to mourn 100,000 victims of the coronavirus,” Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin. “And unfortunately, at the moment, more than 300 deaths are added every day.”
The longtime German leader, who is currently serving as a janitor until her successor is sworn in, warned that hundreds of people were already lurking.
“(The deaths) correlate very clearly with the number of infections that are occurring,” she said. “We know how many people do not survive this disease on average.”
The Robert Koch Institute, a federal agency that collects data from some 400 regional health agencies, said Germany has set a record for daily confirmed cases – 75,961 – in the past 24 hours. Since the start of the outbreak, Germany has had more than 5.57 million confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“The situation is so serious because we are still in exponential growth and because the cases we see getting sick today are basically the patients who will be in intensive care in 10 or 14 days,” Merkel said.
She welcomed an announcement from the German government-in-waiting on Wednesday that it will… create a new permanent expert group to advise officials on how to deal with the pandemic.
While the number of daily infections is higher than the observed number during the last wave of winter, there are currently fewer daily deaths per confirmed cases. Experts claim this is due to vaccinations, which reduce the risk of serious illness.
Still, hospitals have warned that intensive care beds are running out, with nearly 4,000 already occupied by COVID-19 patients. Some hospitals in the south and east of the country have started transferring patients to other regions.
The German Air Force has put two specialized medevac aircraft on standby to transfer ICU patients to regions with free beds.
The general director of the Bavarian Hospitals Association, Roland Engehausen, said the number of new cases should fall sharply.
“Otherwise, between Christmas and New Years, we will have a dramatic situation such as we have not seen before,” he told the German news agency dpa.
Saxony, in the northeast, became the first German state on Thursday to record a weekly number of confirmed cases of more than 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants. It has the lowest vaccination rate – 57.9% – of the 16 German states.
The government has urged people vaccinated more than six months ago to get boosters, and those who haven’t been vaccinated at all to get their first shot. Officials say 68.1% of Germany’s 83 million residents have been fully vaccinated, well below the 75% minimum level the government has set.
Center-left leader Olaf Scholz, who is poised to succeed Merkel as chancellor next month, on Wednesday called for mandatory vaccinations in nursing homes caring for particularly vulnerable people — leaving open the possibility of extending the measure to others.
“Vaccinations are the way out of this pandemic,” Scholz said.
His Social Democratic Party health expert Karl Lauterbach, a trained epidemiologist, cited the case of Bayern Munich football star Joshua Kimmich as a cautionary tale for those who believe they can avoid both the virus and the vaccine. Kimmich, who had hesitated to shoot, tested positive this week. Bayern said on Wednesday that Kimmich is “doing well”.
“The case shows how difficult it is today for unvaccinated people to avoid COVID,” Lauterbach said on Twitter.
Merkel did not address the issue of mandatory vaccinations for everyone, which some senior German officials and the National Association of Intensive Care Doctors have suggested. But she said there should be “more restrictions on contacts.”