Germany's intensive care doctors have called for a two-week hard lockdown in order to avoid overwhelming the health care system.
A mix of hard lockdown, vaccinations and testing is necessary to "prevent intensive care units from being overflowed," the head of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, Christian Karagiannidis, told the Rheinische Post newspaper.
His comments come as Germany battles a third wave of coronavirus infections.
Karagiannidis called on ministers to put an immediate stop to any planned openings in light of the rapid rise in cases. "I ask politicians not to abandon hospital staff," he said.
Reopening plans 'completely inappropriate'
Karagiannidis said the reopening plans, eyed for the weeks and months following Easter, were completely inappropriate and should be withdrawn immediately.
Thomas Strobl, a deputy chairman of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, also called for a hard lockdown in the face of rising infections. "The truth is that we would need a short all-encompassing lockdown to stop the rapid spread of mutant B.1.1.7," he told the Stuttgarter Zeitung.
Health officials warned on Friday that the third wave is likely to be more difficult to curb than the previous two, largely because of the more virulent and easily transmitted B.1.1.7 variant.
Spahn: Lockdown needed to avoid 'breaking point'
On Saturday, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Germany needed a strict lockdown to last 10-14 days to reduce the rapid rise of infections caused by the more contagious variant.
"If we look at the numbers, including the developments today, we need another 10-14 days, at least, of properly driving down contacts and movements, a lockdown if you want to call it that, like we had for Easter last year," Spahn said.
On Friday, Spahn said that if Germany did not act now its health system could reach "breaking point" in April.
Earlier this month, Germany eased its restrictions, allowing hairdressers and high street stores to open for business, albeit where customers needed to book by appointments.
RKI reports highest incidence rate
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control on Saturday reported its highest seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants since mid-January. The rate, which stood at 124.9, was just 119 the day before.
RKI chief Lothar Wieler also warned Germans to reduce their social contacts over the Easter holidays. Wieler told reporters on Friday that if sufficient measures aren't taken, the number of new infections per day could reach or exceed 100,000.
Although 10% of the German population has now received a first dose of the vaccine, the gains from vaccinations are being eaten away by the high infection rate, he said.
The comments come as leaders continue to argue over how to curb the latest surge. Last week, following talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 state premiers, officials announced a five-day lockdown over the Easter holiday week. The measure, however, was swiftly rescinded in the face of a public backlash.
Germany reported 20,472 new cases and 157 new deaths on Saturday, bringing the respective totals to 2,755,225 and 75,780 since the start of the pandemic.
J&J single dose vaccine set for April
Germany is due to receive the first shipment of Johnson & Johnson's single dose COVID-19 vaccine in mid-April, Health Minister Spahn said, giving the country a further boost after a sluggish start to its rollout.
"It will only be a small delivery at first," Spahn said at an online event, adding he expected around 275,000 doses in the week of April 12.
Soon after "it will then be ramped up to millions of doses, as is the case with all deliveries," Spahn added.
Germany's health chief said that, by May, he expects up to 100,000 medical practices nationwide to be administering vaccines.
lc, jsi/mm (Reuters, dpa, AP)