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Don't travel for Christmas, reduce contact by 60%

December 10, 2020

A jump in coronavirus infections in Germany is "worrying," the head of the country's disease control agency said. The Robert Koch Institute chief said people in Germany may face tighter lockdown restrictions.

People in masks fill a street in Cologne's pedestrian zone
The head of the Robert Koch Institute told people in Germany not to travel during the holidaysImage: Ying Tang/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Coronavirus infections and related deaths in Germany could rise further in the coming weeks, the head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI) warned on Thursday.

Interpersonal contact will need to be cut by at least 60%, in order to bring infections down, RKI chief Lothar Wieler said as he urged people not to travel over the Christmas holiday period.

"If people cannot achieve this 60% reduction on their own, then other measures will have to be considered," he said. "If they do not succeed, I see no other option."

The country's top disease control center said the current rise in COVID-19 infections is worrying, singling out the states of Thuringia, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt as being the worst hit.

"The situation is still very serious and has deteriorated over the past week. Currently, we are seeing a rise in infections," RKI chief Lothar Wieler said.

Germany's reported COVID-19 death toll is still rising sharply, increasing by 440 to 20,372 over the past 24 hours, RKI data showed on Thursday. Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Germany increased by 23,679 to 1,242,203, setting a record daily rise, according to the RKI data.

The previous record was an increase of 23,648 reported on November 20.

Europe's largest economy has been in partial lockdown for six weeks, with bars and restaurants closed but shops and schools open.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the public to cut down on socializing and backed tougher lockdown measures.

“We would do well to really take seriously what scientists tell us," Merkel said.

But the country's highly decentralized federal system grants most of those powers to its 16 state governments, meaning toughening or loosening of such restrictions is done at a much slower pace than some of Germany's neighbors.

Surveys show that most Germans support the measures and mask-wearing requirements, although a small but vocal group, known as Querdenken, has organized protests against them.

A small number of Querdenken protests have been organized across Germany
A small number of Querdenker protests have been organized across GermanyImage: Christoph Schmidt/dpa/picture alliance

On Wednesday, domestic intelligence officials in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg said they are putting the group under formal observation.

jf/sms (AP, dpa, Reuters)