Germany’s total coronavirus cases surpassed 1 million for the first time Thursday, a day after the government extended a partial shutdown until just before Christmas.
Europe’s biggest economy passed the grim milestone around 10 months after the country reported the first infections. Cases have tripled since the start of October and, as a result, the number of people with the disease in intensive care has climbed to record levels.
Like other European nations, Germany has imposed stricter measures in recent weeks to stop the disease from spreading. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states agreed late Wednesday to tighten limits on private gatherings but kept schools and most businesses operating to help limit the impact on the economy.
In contrast to nations like France and the U.K., Germany’s curbs have yielded little progress in slowing the disease’s spread. Infection levels are still nearly three times the government’s target rate and, according todata from Johns Hopkins University, the country registered a record increase in new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours through Thursday morning. Fatalities, meanwhile, have exceeded 300 for three straight days, the first time that’s occurred since the start of the pandemic.
“The case numbers have stagnated at far too high a level,” Merkel told lawmakers on Thursday. She wants the seven-day incidence per 100,000 citizens to come down to around 50 — and stay there — before restrictions can be loosened. It was at 138 on Thursday, according to the latest report from the RKI public health institute.
“We undoubtedly have some difficult months ahead of us again,” Merkel said before urging citizens to do everything they can to avoid a “worst-case scenario.”
The chancellor said restrictions will likely remain in place until early January. On a more positive note, she said it’s possible that a vaccine for the virus will be available before Christmas.
— With assistance by Stefan Nicola
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