Merkel plans mega-lockdown as Germany suffers record Covid deaths

Daily mortality for every million people exceeds that of US

FILE PHOTO: People queue at a walk-in COVID-19 testing centre at Wilhelmstrasse, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Berlin, Germany December 18, 2020.  REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/File Photo
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Germany recorded a record number of deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday, prompting calls for an even tighter lockdown after the country emerged relatively unscathed in 2020.

Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted a "mega-lockdown", shutting down the country almost completely for fear of the fast-spreading variant of the virus first detected in Britain, Bild newspaper reported.

She was considering shutting down local and long-distance public transport, although that had not yet been decided.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 05, 2021 German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2L) wearing a face mask together with  Bavaria's State Premier Markus Soeder (L), Berlin's Mayor Michael Mueller (R) and Government spokesman Steffen Seibert (2R) arrives to address a press conference following talks via video conference with Germany's state premiers on the extension of the current partial lockdown, at the Chancellery in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel on January 16, 2021 said significantly tougher measures were needed to slow Germany's coronavirus infections, party sources told AFP. Speaking at a meeting with top brass from her centre-right CDU party, Merkel said "the virus can only be stopped with significant additional efforts", participants told AFP, adding that the chancellor wanted to hold fresh crisis talks with regional leaders next week. / AFP / POOL / Michael Kappeler
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning a 'mega-lockdown' amid a surge in coronavirus deaths. AFP.

At a meeting of top officials from her party on Thursday, Mrs Merkel called for "very fast action" against the spread of virus mutations, participants told Reuters.

She also wanted to bring forward a meeting with regional leaders planned for January 25.

While Germany's total deaths per capita since the pandemic began are far lower than the US, its daily per capita mortality since mid-December has often exceeded America's.

Germany's daily death toll currently equates to about 15 deaths for every million people, compared with 13 in the US.

The Robert Koch Institute reported 25,164 new coronavirus cases and 1,244 fatalities, bringing Germany's total death toll since the start of the pandemic to 43,881.

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, ruling parties in the eastern state of Thuringia said they were postponing a regional election due for April 25 until September 26, the same day as this year's federal election.

Germany initially managed the pandemic better than its neighbours with a strict lockdown last spring.

But it recorded a sharp rise in cases and deaths in recent months, and the institute said people were not taking the virus seriously enough.

Its president, Lothar Wieler, said on Thursday that restrictions were not being implemented as consistently as they were during the first wave.

Mr Wieler said more people should work from home and the current lockdown needed to be tightened further.

Germany introduced a partial lockdown in November that kept shops and schools open.

But it tightened the rules in mid-December, closing non-essential shops, and children have not returned to classrooms since the Christmas holidays.

Hospitals in 10 of Germany's 16 states were facing bottlenecks because 85 per cent of intensive-care unit beds were occupied by coronavirus patients, Mr Wieler said.

So far only about 1 per cent of the German population, or 842,455 people, has been vaccinated, the institute reported.

Germany has recorded 16 cases of people with the fast-spreading variant of the virus first detected in Britain, and four with the mutant strain from South Africa, Mr Wieler said.

He urged people who were offered a Covid-19 vaccination to accept it.

"At the end of the year we will have this pandemic under control," Mr Wieler said.