Germany recorded its highest number of daily deaths from Covid-19 since February on Wednesday, as it struggles to bring a fourth wave of the pandemic under control.
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the national disease and control center, 69,601 new infections were registered in the last 24 hours, with an additional 527 persons dying. That was the greatest daily death toll in Covid-19 since February 18, when 534 people died.
The seven-day incidence rate in Germany has decreased slightly, although it remains high at 427 per 100,000 people. Since the onset of the pandemic, the country has documented 104,047 deaths due to Covid-19.
The bad news arrived on the same day that Olaf Scholz was ushered in as Germany’s new Chancellor, succeeding Angela Merkel at the helm of Europe’s most powerful economy. Karl Lauterbach, a member of parliament and a distinguished epidemiologist, has been appointed as the country’s new health minister.
In an effort to combat the COVID-19 virus, Germany declared a statewide lockdown for the unvaccinated past week, preventing them from entering all but the most critical enterprises, such as supermarkets and pharmacies. Those who have recently recovered from Covid-19 are exempt from the ban.
Its leaders also endorsed proposals for mandatory vaccinations in the coming months, which, if approved by the German parliament, could go into action as early as February.
Many hospitals are struggling to cope with the rising number of intensive care patients, and German doctors have warned that intensive care occupancy levels may soon exceed those recorded during the peak of last winter’s season.
The emergence of the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant has heightened concerns in Germany as elsewhere.
Researchers working in South Africa reported Tuesday that the Omicron variant partly escapes the protection offered by the Pfizer vaccine, although people who have been previously infected and then vaccinated are likely to be well protected. The research team cautioned that it was a small, preliminary study.
A worker evaluated a rapid Covid-19 test in Dresden, Saxony, on December 3.
If approved, Germany’s vaccine mandate would follow in the footsteps of neighboring Austria, which also plans to make inoculations for eligible adults compulsory from February.
Greece announced last week that vaccines would be mandatory for people aged over 60 from mid-January. Those refusing to do so would face 100 euro (US $113) fines for each passing month, the government said.
The United Kingdom marked a year Wednesday since it became the world’s first nation to begin vaccinating its citizens with a fully vetted and authorized Covid-19 shot.
The UK government is under pressure from leading scientists to introduce tougher restrictions to try to limit infections amid rising case numbers. The seven-day rolling average on November 29 was over 45,000, the highest it’s been since a peak around October 17.
UK health officials are urging all those eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and has accelerated its booster shot rollout, amid wide concern over the potential impact of the Omicron variant. Last week, the government reimposed the requirement to wear a face covering in shops and on public transport after a number of cases of the new variant were detected in the UK.
“We can conclude there is now community transmission across multiple regions of England,” UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said Monday of the Omicron variant.
At the same time, the UK government is facing an uproar over reports of a staff Christmas party at Downing Street during last year’s lockdown.