Germany has entered a “nationwide state of emergency” due to rising coronavirus infections, the head of the country’s disease control agency said on Friday.
Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, said regular medical care can no longer be guaranteed in some parts of the country because hospitals and intensive care units are congested.
The German Air Force confirmed a report from the daily newspaper Bild that it was preparing to help transfer patients to clinics with free beds.
“The whole of Germany is one big outbreak,” Wieler told reporters in Berlin. “This is a nationwide state of emergency. We need to pull the emergency brake.”
He called for urgent further action to tackle the rise in COVID-19 cases, which peaked at 50,000 for the third day in a row. The Robert Koch Institute also reported 201 more deaths, which has taken the number to 98,739 since the onset of the outbreak.
Wieler’s comments came as the upper house of parliament on Friday approved new measures to control the outbreak proposed by the center-left alliance that emerged after the September 26 national election. The measures include requiring people to prove they have been vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative for the virus to gain access to shared workplaces or public transport.
Separately, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with the governors of Germany’s 16 states to introduce a new threshold linked to the number of hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients per year. 100,000 people over a seven-day period. Some states are also considering mandatory vaccinations for some professions such as medical staff and nursing home staff.
Austria expands restrictions
Neighboring Austria, which has also been hit by an increase in new cases, announced it would extend a nationwide lockdown to vaccinated people from Monday and introduce mandatory vaccinations from February.
Such measures are not currently being discussed in Germany, where the outgoing Merkel government and the tripartite alliance, which hopes to replace it, disagree on how to respond to the pandemic.
Germany’s current health minister, Jens Spahn, on Friday called for a “national joint effort” to respond to the rising case numbers.
“In the short term, we will not be able to break the wave [of infections] with vaccinations and booster shots alone, “he said at a joint news conference with Wieler, who called on the Germans to help limit the spread of the virus by reducing their social contacts.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7 ET
What’s happening in Canada
What’s going on around the world
As of early Friday morning, more than 256.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracker. The reported global death toll was more than 5.1 million.
In it America, Florida banned schools and businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccination and set the stage for a possible withdrawal from the federal agency aimed at protecting workplace safety.
Mexico reported 3,915 new cases of infection and 356 more deaths on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 3,854,994 and the death toll to 291,929.
IN Europe, Russian authorities have reported a record number of coronavirus deaths for the third day in a row. Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported 1,254 virus deaths on Friday, up from the previous record of 1,251 recorded the day before. The task force also reported 37,156 new confirmed cases. The daily new infections in recent weeks seemed to have taken a downward trend but are still higher than during previous increases of the virus.
Hungary reported 11,289 new cases, the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic, the government said.
IN Africa, Health officials in South Africa on Thursday reported 585 new cases of COVID-19 and 40 additional deaths.
In it Middle East, Kuwait on Thursday reported 22 more cases and one more death.
In it Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines has approved a plan to soon allow foreign tourists vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter, its tourism ministry said after efforts by other Southeast Asian countries to ease the travel edge.