The German executive chancellery is calling for a winter lockdown. Helge Braun of the CDU is said to have threatened the new traffic light government by saying: “Either the traffic light coalition creates a law or we need a Minister-President conference that decides on a clear emergency brake.”
The newly passed Infection Protection Act rules out general school and business closings, as well as imposing curfews.
FDP leader Christian Lindner said: “Many measures have not yet been exhausted.”
These have included contact restrictions, distance rules and restrictions on leisure events. “This should now be done urgently,” said Mr Lindner in a report published by German newspaper ‘Bild’.
Several state representatives are also said to be of the opinion that a “nationwide lockdown” can no longer be ruled out.
However, future Chancellor Olaf Scholz rejects a lockdown.
The warning signal was the nationwide transfer of patients from so-called hotspots that began this week.
In order to assist the surge in patients, the German military has stepped in to help transport patients.
Germany readied its air force to transfer COVID-19 patients from overwhelmed hospitals in the south as national case numbers rocketed and a new virus variant in South Africa caused widespread alarm.
The country posted a dip in the coronavirus infection rate over the summer but cases have risen sharply in recent weeks and daily new infections hit a record above 76,000 on Friday.
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On Thursday, Europe’s biggest economy crossed the threshold of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths amid warnings from hospitals mainly in the south and the east that their intensive care units were filling to capacity.
Of 22,000 available intensive care beds in Germany, 4,000 are occupied with coronavirus patients, 85 percent of whom need breathing assistance.
Their average age is between 50 and 79 years.
Acting Health Minister Jens Spahn called for “massive restrictions of contacts”, supported by Germany’s regions, saying this was the only way to break the fourth wave.
A surge of the pandemic has been detected across the whole of Europe.
Some have claimed that the surge is a result of many citizens not being vaccinated.
However, scientists have reacted with scepticism to claims by AstraZeneca’s CEO that low uptake of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab among elderly Europeans could explain the current surge in Covid-19 infections in mainland Europe.
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Incidence rates across Europe are rising fast. Portugal, which has vaccinated 86 percent of its population, is reintroducing a series of restrictions as cases continue to rise.
Catalonia has become the latest Spanish region to decree that Covid passports are needed to get into bars, restaurants, gyms and care homes.
In the Netherlands, the government is due to announce new measures on Friday to tackle a rise in infections.
Despite about 85 percent of the adult population being fully vaccinated, cases hit a record high of nearly 24,000 on Wednesday, about 40 percent more than the previous week, with hospitals close to capacity.
Switzerland is planning a referendum on Sunday in which voters can decide on how far the national government’s powers to respond to the pandemic can go.
Austria became the first country in western Europe to re-enter lockdown on Monday and also announced a vaccine mandate from February.
It was followed by neighbouring Slovakia, which on Wednesday entered a two-week lockdown after the health ministry said that hospital admissions had reached a “critical point”.
Less than 50 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
The World Health Organization has designated a new highly mutated strain of Covid a “variant of concern” and gives it the Greek name Omicron
Health Secretary Sajid Javid says there is “huge international concern” over the variant – but there are no UK cases.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg