BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany surpassed 2 million coronavirus infections and the death toll from the pandemic reached nearly 45,000, experts said on Friday, a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded “very swift action” to curb the deadly virus.
Europe’s largest economy and most populous nation is managing the pandemic better than its neighbors last spring. But there has been a sharp increase in cases and deaths recently and daily per capita deaths have frequently exceeded US figures since mid-December.
Worried about high infection rates and bracing for the spread of a more contagious variant of the virus, Merkel told top officials from her party on Thursday that she wanted “very swift action”.
Germany’s coronavirus cases increased by 22,368 to 2,000,958, according to the most recent date from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. It was the smallest increase in infections on Friday in more than two months. A week ago, the number of new registered cases was nearly 10,000 higher.
The situation in the intensive care unit has also relaxed a little, according to the RKI.
But the high death toll rose by 1,113 to 44,994 on Friday, and concerns over a more contagious variant of the coronavirus fanned fears that existing lockdown measures were failing.
Merkel will next Tuesday hold a meeting with regional leaders originally planned for January 25 to discuss tougher measures to reduce social contact, attendees at the meeting said.
Part of the debate is expected to focus on whether companies should be coerced or incentivized to get more people to work from home. There is also disagreement over whether schools should reopen in February, people close to the talks told Reuters.
Germany is targeting its steps to reduce the number of infections per 100,000 population over seven days to no more than 50.That number is currently around 150.
Limiting the spread of the virus will give authorities time until enough people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity. So far about 1.2% of Germany’s population, or about one million people, have been vaccinated, according to the German health ministry.
Reporting by Kirsti Knolle, Markus Wacket, Andreas Rinke and Sabine Siebold; editing by Maria Sheahan and Mark Heinrich