Germany: Monthly COVID death toll set to double in December | News | DW | 21.12.2020

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Germany: Monthly COVID death toll set to double in December

Germany has recorded more than 10,000 coronavirus deaths in December, and is on course to see the number of fatalities double from last month. The second wave is proving to be much deadlier than the first.

A health care worker attends to a COVID patient in an ICU in Bavaria

Some of Germany's intensive care units are already at full capacity

December has marked the deadliest month of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany so far, with more than 10,000 deaths reported within the first three weeks.

The total 10,027 deaths in December recorded Monday by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is nearly double November's death toll of 6,155.

It's an even starker rise from the 981 deaths recorded for the whole of October and 198 in September. DW's tally allows for the fact that most deaths are made public the following day.

Over the past few days, Germany has been reporting around 500 deaths a day, and over 30,000 new infections on certain days.

The country, which received widespread praise for its handling of the first wave of the pandemic earlier this year, has failed to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus during the second wave despite implementing a nationwide lockdown last week.

Germany's death toll from March to May totaled 7,869, far lower than other European nations like France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.

With new records reached on both fatalities and infections, December's figures indicate that the country has not yet reached the peak of the second wave of the virus.

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Lockdown could extend into spring

Following a "light" lockdown, which allowed retailers to keep their doors open but saw gyms and restaurants close, Germany implemented a series of sweeping curbs on December 16.

The new restrictions, which experts hope will reduce the surge in new infections, required all nonessential shops to close their doors and sent schoolchildren back to remote learning. Meanwhile, an existing limit on group gatherings is in place, with a maximum of five people from two households allowed to meet.

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The tougher lockdown is expected to stay in place until at least January 10. However, health officials have warned that the measures could extend into the spring months.

Despite a loosening of restrictions between December 24-26, Health Minister Jens Spahn has called on the public to reduce contact with other people, including over the holidays.

Some officials have suggested meeting with families over video chat for Christmas, rather than hosting in-person meetings.

'Need more speed' with vaccines

Vaccinations are expected to begin in Germany on December 27, but it could take several months to sufficiently inoculate the population.

Some politicians have been critical of both the measures in place and the speed at which Germany intends to vaccinate people.

"When it comes to vaccines, we need more speed," Markus Söder, the premier of the southern state of Bavaria, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "Everything must be geared toward getting more vaccines, which will then be distributed more quickly."

That must be "an absolute political priority," he said. He also warned that the lockdown could stretch beyond January 10. "The current numbers are so high that it would be wrong to enter into a debate about relaxations now," he said. "Unfortunately, the coronavirus winter will still be long."

Calls to vaccinate politicians

Meanwhile, Friedrich Merz, a candidate for the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union, has called for a faster vaccine rollout. He spoke in favor of vaccinating politicians, among others, at an early stage.

"As soon as capacities permit, public representatives should also be vaccinated," he told the dpa news agency. He added that politicians and public figures should set a good example and get vaccinated to take away the public's "fear and apprehension."

"You can't convince hardcore vaccination opponents with arguments, but you might be able to convince those who are unsure of the vaccine to take it," he said.

According to a survey by the opinion research institute Kantar, 62% of German citizens currently want to be vaccinated against COVID-19, while 32% are against it. Those who hadn't formed an opinion yet made up 6% of the population.

The European Medicines Agency will publish its assessment of the vaccine from Mainz-based BioNTech and its US partner Pfizer on Monday. Vaccinations are expected to be carried out across more than 400 regional vaccination centers to start, with mobile vaccination teams for nursing homes and clinics.

lc/nm (dpa, AFP)

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