Germany has recorded nearly 30,000 new coronavirus cases and 598 new deaths over the past 24 hours. The COVID-19 infection rate has hit a record for the second day in a row.
Germany's intensive care units (ICUs) are filling up with COVID patients and some regions are at capacity
Germany added 29,875 new coronavirus infections and 598 deaths from Thursday to Friday, according to the country's disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
The soaring number of cases and deaths is the highest ever recorded in a 24-hour period in Germany since the pandemic began. The total case number now stands at over 1,270,000 and the death toll is 20,970.
It is the second day in a row that case numbers hit a record and the second time in two days that the country saw almost 600 daily deaths.
Germany's top disease control official on Thursday described the situation as "extremely fragile."
RKI President Lothar Wieler said while cases had plateaued for a spell, they were now in fact rising and risk returning to exponential growth.
Germany imposed a second partial lockdown, dubbed lockdown light, on November 2.
The stronger curbs forced restaurants and bars to close, people were advised to work from home again and unnecessary travel was strongly discouraged.
However, the measures have failed to stem the second wave of the pandemic and the number of new cases has exceeded 15,000 for 29 of the last 40 days.
Local health authorities have long been unable to track chains of infection due to the sheer number of cases.
Meanwhile, intensive care units are filling up and hospitals in some regions are at capacity.
Dr. Tobias Kurth, an epidemiologist and director of the Charité Institute of Public Health in Berlin, told DW the rise was "alarming" and that Germany now "had to go into a hard lockdown."
"We cannot afford to wait until after Christmas," he said. "If you travel across the country to see your family members, you put people at risk of getting sick and of eventually dying. We cannot afford this."
Chancellor Angela Merkel is tipped to meet with the leaders of the 16 federal states over the weekend to discuss a stricter nationwide response, including imposing tougher restrictions on public life.
Merkel pleaded with Germans in a speech on Wednesday to reduce contacts and take additional precautions.
"If we now, just before Christmas, have too many contacts and this ends up being the last Christmas with the grandparents, then we will have failed in a sense. We should not do this," she said.
Germany was widely praised for its handling of the first wave of the health crisis, and saw a much lower death toll than its European neighbors. But now ministers are comparing their efforts with those of France, which has succeeded in reducing the spread.
"This time France did everything right and achieved impressive successes, while in Germany, unfortunately, the momentum of the second wave has still not been broken," Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in comments to Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper and France's Les Echos.
Meanwhile, more than 10,000 doctors are interested in working at centers being set up nationwide to administer the coronavirus vaccine, according to a report published by the Funke media group on Friday.
The report cited a survey of health insurance associations.
Health Minister Jens Spahn expects that the first doses will be ready by January at the latest.
Vaccines are to be distributed via almost 30 delivery points across the country via regional vaccination centers, for which halls, stadiums and hotels are being prepared.
The deputy head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), Stephan Hofmeister has called for the vaccination drive to move to doctors' clinics from the centers as soon as enough doses are available.
mm, wmr/rt (AP, AFP)