Merkel: “Sad day” when Germany marks 100,000 deaths from covid

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Thursday “a very sad day” and called for more restrictions, as her country became the latest to surpass 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

“It is, of course, a very sad day that we have to mourn 100,000 victims of the coronavirus,” Merkel told a news conference in Berlin. “And unfortunately, at present, more than 300 deaths are added every day.”

The longtime German leader, who is currently on duty as her caretaker until her successor is sworn in, warned that hundreds more deaths were already on the way.

“(Deaths) correlate very clearly with the number of infections that occur,” she said. “We know how many people on average do not survive this disease.”

“The situation is so serious because we are still in an exponential growth and because the cases we see getting sick today are basically the patients who will be in intensive care in 10 or 14 days,” Merkel said.

She welcomed an announcement by Germany’s pending government on Wednesday that it would create a new permanent expert group to advise officials on how to tackle the pandemic.

While the number of daily infections is higher than what was seen during the last winter increase, there are currently fewer daily deaths per confirmed case. Experts claim that this is due to vaccinations, which reduce the likelihood of serious illness.

Hospitals have still warned that intensive care beds are running out, with almost 4,000 already occupied by covid-19 patients. Some hospitals in the south and east of the country have begun to transfer patients to other regions.

The German Air Force has put two specialized Medevac planes on standby to fly ICU patients to regions with vacant beds.

The director general of the Bavarian Hospital Association, Roland Engehausen, said that the number of new cases must be sharply reduced.

“Otherwise, we will have a dramatic situation between Christmas and New Year that we have not seen yet,” he told the German news agency dpa.

Saxony, in the northeast, became the first German state to register a weekly number of confirmed cases over 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants on Thursday. It has the lowest vaccination rate – at 57.9% – among Germany’s 16 states.

The government has urged people who were vaccinated more than six months ago to get boosters, and those who have not been inoculated at all to get their first injection. Officials say 68.1% of Germany’s 83 million people are fully vaccinated, well below the 75% minimum target set by the government.

Center-left leader Olaf Scholz, who is ready to succeed Merkel as chancellor next month, on Wednesday demanded mandatory vaccinations in nursing homes that take care of particularly vulnerable people – and left open the possibility of extending the measure to others.

“Vaccinations are the way out of this pandemic,” Scholz said.

His Social Democrat party health expert Karl Lauterbach, a trained epidemiologist, cited the case of Bayern Munich football star Joshua Kimmich as a warning to those who believe they can avoid both the virus and the vaccine. Kimmich, who had hesitated to get the shot, tested positive this week. Bayern said on Wednesday that Kimmich “was fine.”

“The case shows how difficult it is for unvaccinated people to avoid covid nowadays,” Lauterbach said on Twitter.

Merkel did not raise the issue of compulsory vaccinations for all, as some senior German officials and the country’s association of intensive care physicians have suggested. But she said there should be “more restrictions on contacts.”

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Follow the AP’s monitoring of the coronavirus pandemic: https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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