Germany weighs new Covid rules as infections reach record highs

German and federal politicians scramble to put new Covid rules in place as country experiences record number of cases, and a leading virologist has warned that the country’s pandemic death toll could double if sufficient measures fail are not taken.

Nearly 40,000 new cases were recorded in the country on Tuesday – the third time a daily record has been set in a week. And 236 people died from the disease during that 24-hour period.

“We have a real emergency,” said Dr Christian Drosten, head of the virology department at Charité Hospital in Berlin, Germany’s most renowned research hospital, in a podcast broadcast on Tuesday.

Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has reported nearly 97,000 deaths due to Covid. Dr Drosten warned 100,000 more could result if no further solutions are found, although the number of patients in intensive care beds is now less than half of what it was during the January peak .

Germany’s national government, which under Angela Merkel’s leadership was seen as a role model in Europe on how to deal with the pandemic, is now struggling to keep the situation under control.

The three parties that are set to take over from Merkel’s coalition government have proposed a set of Covid rules that will be discussed in parliament on Thursday, although they will not be voted on until next week and do not include gender strict rules that many experts have called for.

The new parties said last month they would allow the nationwide state of emergency, which allowed for the introduction of national rules, to expire at the end of November. Under the new law, fast free coronavirus testing for all – a costly initiative that was scrapped last month in hopes of lifting the vaccination rate – would be reinstated.

Authorities in Bavaria, where cases have risen 68% in the past two weeks, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday. Markus Söder, the Bavarian governor, last declared a state of emergency in December 2020. Several other states, including those hardest hit, have put in place or plan to adopt their own stricter regulations this week. These rules would be compulsory vaccinations or documents proving a past infection for people seeking to use certain services.

“We are on the verge of having 16 different regulations again, and that in itself does not lead to greater acceptance,” said Jens Spahn, the acting national health minister.

Experts say the recent increase in infections is due to the relatively low vaccination rate in parts of Germany and the slow roll-out of booster injections. About 67 percent of the country’s population is fully immunized.

Although a recent study suggested that 65% of unvaccinated people in the country did not consider getting vaccinated under any circumstances, queues at vaccination centers have increased.

Two weeks ago, just over 200,000 doses of vaccination were given on certain days, but on Tuesday, 312,000 vaccines were given in a single day, a daily total not seen since the summer.

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