The spike in Germany comes as Europe has re-emerged as the pandemic’s epicentre, with the continent battling sluggish vaccine uptake in some nations, the highly contagious Delta variant, colder weather sending people indoors and the easing of restrictions.
An AFP tally of official figures showed on Thursday that more than 1.5 million people have died from Covid-19 in Europe.
Scholz began a presentation of his new government’s policy roadmap on Wednesday by announcing new measures to tame the fourth wave.
These included forming a corona response task force based at his office and earmarking one billion euros ($1.12 billion) in bonuses for overstretched health workers on the front lines.
Representatives of the German ‘traffic light’ parties arrive at a press conference to set out their plans for the coming months and years on Wednesday, November 24th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld
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Greens co-leader Annalena Baerbock told public broadcaster ARD the incoming coalition would take 10 days, until early December, to decide whether “the protective measures go far enough”.
But that timetable has already been criticised as far too little and too late.
“The latest decisions are like announcing in a flooding catastrophe a plan to hire more swimming teachers and distributing a few water wings and rubber ducks,” Sueddeutsche newspaper fumed.
“The coalition has big plans, but what use are they if we are all locked down over Christmas with thousands dying each day?”
Bavaria Governor Markus Soder called for the next crisis meeting between state and regions, set for December 9th, to be held much earlier.
Low vaccination rate
As the fourth wave rages, the German health sector has had to call on hospitals elsewhere in the European Union for help.
Germany last week began requiring people to prove they are vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 or recently tested negative before they can travel on public transport or enter workplaces.
Several of the worst-hit areas have gone further, cancelling large events like Christmas markets and barring the unvaccinated from bars, gyms and leisure facilities.
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The surge has ignited a fierce debate about whether to follow Austria’s example and make vaccination mandatory for all citizens, with Scholz voicing support for compulsory jabs for health staff.
Germany’s Covid-19 crisis has in part been blamed on its relatively low vaccination rate of about 69 percent, compared to other Western European countries such as France, where it is 75 percent.
Meanwhile Bayern Munich football club confirmed on Wednesday that star midfielder Joshua Kimmich and back-up striker Eric Choupo Moting — both of whom are unvaccinated — have tested positive for the virus.
By Deborah Cole and Yann Schreiber