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COVID: Situation in Germany's hospitals is 'dramatic'

Urgent action is needed to contain a third wave of coronavirus, top health officials have warned. The number of intensive care patients could reach a record high this month.

Watch video 02:37

Doctors in Germany warn: time is running out

German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday pleaded with federal states to impose further restrictions immediately rather than wait for the federal "emergency brake." 

The government has sought to introduce stricter nationwide restrictions to contain a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic amid calls from doctors to toughen the measures.  

"Every day counts especially in this difficult situation," Spahn told a weekly news conference, adding that "vaccinating and testing alone are not enough to break the third wave."

"We know from last autumn what happens when we don't act quickly," Spahn added. 

Watch video 03:18

COVID-19: Germany looks to federalize virus laws

What is the current situation in Germany?

Germany on Thursday recorded 29,426 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the biggest daily increase since January 8, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported.

The number of new infections per 100,000 residents over seven days rose to 160.1, while the reported death toll rose by 293 on Thursday, according to the RKI. 

"What is clear is that we must act now," RKI President Lothar Wieler said, adding that the situation was worse than the second wave. 

Wieler said the situation in intensive care units was worsening, with most cases belonging to the 15- to 49-year-old age group. 

The coronavirus variant that was first detected in Britain, known as B117, now accounts for 90% of recorded cases, Wieler said.

Watch video 03:42

Coronavirus situation in Germany 'dramatic': researcher

What about the vaccine?

While 17% of Germans have received at least a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, many people will still have to wait for months for vaccination, Wieler said. 

Spahn renewed his promise to offer a vaccine to all adults in Germany by the summer and pushed back on achieving herd immunity. 

"It will take until the summer, not at the beginning of July but in the summer, in the third quarter, until we have achieved group immunity," Spahn said. 

Watch video 02:21

Vaccine output growth essential in fighting pandemic

How does Germany impose COVID restrictions?  

Under Germany's federal system, each state has had the power to apply measures as it saw fit. 

But Cabinet members on Tuesday approved legal changes to grant the federal government more power to enforce coronavirus regulations nationwide.

The decision must now pass the Bundestag, although it is facing opposition. 

Dubbed the "federal emergency brake," the decision would legally require any state with a high incidence of COVID-19 cases to implement a set of rules laid out by the federal government.

Although the government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), wants to fast-track a decision, the timeline remains unclear.

fb/rt (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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