Germany is heading for a major new nationwide lockdown to halt the rapid spread of the coronavirus after health experts warned that waiting until after Christmas to liquidate the country could cost tens of thousands of lives and overwhelm hospitals.
The country recorded nearly 23,000 new cases Wednesday morning and 598 deaths, both higher than at any time since the pandemic began.
Leading politicians urged the government to act immediately to instigate what some media called a “lightning blockade.”
Markus Söder, leader of the southern state of Bavaria, where cases have skyrocketed in recent days, said on Friday morning: “We have to act as soon as possible.” Said every day counted tweeting: “Why hesitate, when we know it is necessary? That is why we have to promote everything and act decisively. We have to finish everything before Christmas. “
He called for a nationwide approach, including curfews, the closure of non-essential stores, and an extension of school and kindergarten holidays.
On November 2, the country entered a “soft lockdown,” with stricter rules about meetings and bars and restaurants closed, but shops and schools open.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said: “It is clear that we need additional measures, sooner rather than later. We cannot allow this to be a festival for the virus. The virus does not care whether or not we have bought our Christmas gifts. “Asking the Germans to show solidarity with each other, he said:” The ‘we’ has to be more important than the ‘me’, and that means making a sacrifice”.
The federal government and the leaders of the 16 states will meet on Sunday to decide on the next set of emergency measures.
But many decision makers urged the government to act more quickly.
Daniel Günther, head of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, said it was “irresponsible to wait another day.” He said Germany was facing “an incredibly difficult time until Easter.”
On Thursday, Berlin Mayor Michael Müller said he wanted the capital to close its stores and coordinate with neighboring Brandenburg, but a decision should not be made until Tuesday.
In an emotional speech to the state parliament, he asked: “How many deaths is a candlelight dinner worth? … How many deaths is a shopping spree worth? “while seeking support for a lockdown before Christmas, which he said was necessary to save lives.
Earlier, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said it would be a mistake to wait until after Christmas to tighten restrictions. “The only chance for us to regain control of the situation is a lockdown that kicks in immediately,” he told Der Spiegel. Doing otherwise would leave Germany facing an exponential increase in cases for months, he added. He said he was “furious” that Germany had “squandered the advantage it had fought for” at the beginning of the pandemic, blaming not a lack of citizen discipline, but “insufficient measures taken.”
On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel made an unusually expressive appeal, her voice cracking as she urged people to stay home for Christmas or risk never seeing their grandparents again.
Merkel has repeatedly called for a nationwide approach to tackling the coronavirus, but most decisions have been made at the state level and have seemed ad hoc and confusing.
Bavaria introduced stricter rules on Wednesday, including a night curfew at hotspots and a ban on the sale of alcohol in city centers.
The state of Baden Württemberg has introduced a curfew that will start on Saturday, with the possibility for people to go to work or for essential visits to shops or to the doctor.
From Monday in Saxony, schools, kindergartens and non-essential shops will be closed. Politicians urged Saxons not to travel to neighboring Brandenburg, where the shops remain open.
The German Society of Surgeons warned of the consequences of overloaded hospitals on patients without coronavirus. Currently, 4,000 intensive care beds in Germany are occupied with Covid-19 cases, a third more than at the height of the pandemic during the first wave. “The situation in hospitals is becoming increasingly tense,” Thomas Schmitz-Rixen, vice president of the German Society of Surgeons, told Deutschlandfunk broadcaster.
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