Germany faces pre-Christmas lockdown as hospital capacity stretched

Chancellor Angela Merkel meets on Sunday to look at tightening lockdown

A sign for the mandatory use of protective mask is pictured in front of Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) after a demonstration of coronavirus skeptics was officially cancelled, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Dresden, Germany, December 12, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Germany is considering tighter coronavirus restrictions with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying Christmas celebrations could be reined in as hospitals are battered by rising caseloads.
Discussions will be held on Sunday to decide whether shops will be closed before the Christmas holiday and the timing of such a move.
The country is also nearing capacity is some areas for intensive care unit beds as the second wave hits the country harder than the initial outbreak. The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in Germany increased on Saturday by 28,438, taking the total to just over 1.3 million.

The ICU situation is "quite critical" in some hospitals, said Uwe Janssens, an intensive care doctor.

"We have areas where the ICU capacity has left just 5 per cent to 10 per cent open beds. That's not enough to cover the broad range of severely ill patients," he said.
"Even when they come on the intensive care units over the age of 70 or 80, the mortality in intensive care units is above 80 per cent."
He also said the pressure was building on medical professionals after months of fighting the pandemic.
"The burden is very high, the pressure is very high. The psychological and physical stress for healthcare workers is immense," he said.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier confirmed hospital ICUs were being stretched to their limits and that Germany could not wait to react.
"We have to clarify how things will continue now. Otherwise the pandemic will get completely out of control," he told the RND newspaper group.
"We are again in a phase of exponential growth and we're seeing that the first intensive care units are reaching the limit of their capacity.
"So we definitely cannot afford to wait until Christmas until we react," he said.
Germany has been in partial lockdown for six weeks, with bars and restaurants closed but shops and schools open. Some regions have already imposed tougher measures.
Ms Merkel is expected to meet the heads of the country's 16 states at the weekend to impose stiffer measures, including closing non-essential shops and extending school holidays.