Germany’s health minister called on Tuesday for further restrictions to contain a “dramatic” surge in coronavirus cases as the country’s infection rate hit a record high and the United States advised against travel there.
The seven-day incidence rate – the number of people per 100,000 to be infected over the last week – hit 399.8 on Tuesday, up from 386.5 on Monday, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.
Health Minister Jens Spahn called for more public spaces to be restricted to those who were vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19 and also had a negative test, in a bid to contain Germany’s fourth wave.
Spahn did not rule out lockdowns, although he said this would be decided region by region. Some regions such as the hard-hit Saxony and Bavaria are already taking measures such as cancelling Christmas markets.
“The situation is not only serious, in some regions in Germany it is now dramatic,” Spahn told German Radio. “We are having to move patients around as the intensive care units are full and that doesn’t just affect COVID-19 patients.”
On Monday, Spahn said that by the end of the winter almost everyone in Germany would be “vaccinated, recovered or dead”.
Neighbouring Austria has reimposed a full lockdown due to surging caseloads. Spahn has not ruled out similar steps in Germany, although he said on Tuesday that would be decided region by region.
Many Christmas markets have been cancelled, especially in the hard-hit regions of Bavaria and Saxony. The eastern state of Brandenburg decided that children no longer have to go to school and is starting its Christmas holidays three days early.
The force of the pandemic’s fourth wave has prompted more politicians to back compulsory vaccinations, a divisive topic that is likely to face Germany’s new government. Only 68% of the population are fully vaccinated.
Some 7.3% of citizens have had a booster and while long queues have formed in many places for a third shot, Spahn has tried to allay concerns about supply.
“Compulsory vaccination is not a violation of civil liberties, but the prerequisite for us to regain our freedom,” wrote the premiers of the southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily.
The ALM association of medical laboratories said capacity for PCR testing was reaching its limits with nationwide utilisation at 86%, up from 75% in the previous week, while the number of positive PCR tests had jumped by 31%.