Germany set for longer lockdown as death figures spike

BERLIN (AP) — German officials made clear yesterday that they won’t be able to relax lockdown restrictions in early January as the country recorded more than 1,000 deaths in one day for the first time.

That figure was likely swollen by delayed reporting but underlined the severity of the situation.

Germany, the European Union’s most populous country, shut restaurants, sports and leisure facilities on November 2. That partial shutdown halted a fast increase in new infections for a while but failed to bring them down, prompting authorities to impose a fuller lockdown from December 16, shutting nonessential shops and schools.

Those measures run through January 10. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states will consult on Tuesday on how to proceed.

“We have to lament 1,129 deaths this morning alone — 1,129 families will be in mourning this new year,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a news conference.

Men wait for their vaccination against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease at the Arena Treptow vaccine centre in Berlin. PHOTO: AP

“These figures show how brutally this virus is still striking. But the numbers of deaths and infections also show that we are a very long way from the normality we would like,” he added. “So in this situation, I don’t see how we can return to the pre-lockdown mode.”

“My expectation is that the lockdown will continue, because we must not take any further risks. The hospitals … are at their limits,” said the governor of Germany’s most populous state, Armin Laschet.

The deaths reported to Germany’s national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, over the past 24 hours exceeded the previous record set a week ago of 962 and brought Germany’s total death toll to 32,107.

The institute’s chairman, Lothar Wieler, said “the most plausible explanation” for the spike in reported deaths was delayed reporting of cases over the holiday, following relatively low figures over several days.

However, the figure fits into a recent pattern of high numbers of deaths.