Merkel seeks limited lockdown as German virus cases surge
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pressing for a partial lockdown as the number of newly recorded infections in the country hit another record high Wednesday.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control agency, said 14,964 new cases were recorded across the country in the past days, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to 4,49,275. Germany also saw a further 27 COVID-related deaths, raising its overall death toll to 10,098.
Merkel meets Wednesday with the governors of Germany’s 16 states and senior government officials to say she will demand they introduce measures to drastically reduce social contacts, echoing her repeated public appeals to citizens over the past two weeks that have so far not resulted in a drop in new cases.
Owners of restaurants and bars planned to stage a protest over fears that their establishments will be closed for several weeks, further hurting Germany’s already ailing hospitality industry. Schools across Germany have also been preparing to shift at least some of their teaching online, in anticipation of possible partial closures.
Officials say Germany, which has coped with the outbreak better than many of its neighbouring European countries, is beginning to lose control of the situation, with local health authorities unable to trace contacts of those infected and some hospitals refusing to take in new patients.
France braces for possible lockdown as virus deaths mount
France is bracing for a potential new lockdown as the president prepares a televised address Wednesday aimed at stopping a fast-rising tide of virus patients filling French hospitals and a growing daily death toll.
French markets opened lower on expectations that President Emmanuel Macron will announce some kind of lockdown Wednesday, though the government has not released details amid ongoing discussions about what measures would be most effective.
Many French doctors are urging a new nationwide lockdown, noting that 58% of the country’s intensive care units are now occupied by COVID patients and medical staff are under increasing strain.
“The government didn’t take into account what the first wave was and didn’t learn all its lessons”, Frederic Valletoux, president of the French Hospital Federation, said Wednesday on France-Inter radio. He called for full, monthlong lockdown, saying “this wave will be much more devastating for the hospital system. Hospitals won’t manage if we don’t take drastic measures.”
Business owners and some politicians are pushing for a compromise, such as local lockdowns in the hardest-hit areas, or a lockdown that would allow schools to stay open.
Economists warn that a full lockdown could impact Europe more broadly if other European countries hit hard by rising infections then follow France’s lead.
France reported 523 virus-related deaths in 24 hours Tuesday, the highest daily tally since April, bringing its overall death toll to 35,541, the third-highest toll in Europe after Britain and Italy. France has for weeks been reporting tens of thousands of new infections per day and is now recording more than 380 new cases each week per 100,000 people.
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