German government hesitant on lockdown as COVID cases rise

A helicopter of the DRF Luftrettung brings a patient who is seriously ill with the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease to the St. Bernward Hospital in Hildesheim, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. From Bavaria, Thuringia and Saxony, Covid-19 patients are transport to hospitals in the north and west of Germany. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa via AP)
Caption
A helicopter of the DRF Luftrettung brings a patient who is seriously ill with the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease to the St. Bernward Hospital in Hildesheim, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. From Bavaria, Thuringia and Saxony, Covid-19 patients are transport to hospitals in the north and west of Germany. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa via AP)

Credit: Julian Stratenschulte

Credit: Julian Stratenschulte

Germany’s government has refused to back calls for a swift and sharp lockdown to curb the country’s worsening coronavirus situation, which has seen daily confirmed cases hit a new peak

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's government refused to back calls Friday for a swift and sharp lockdown to curb the country's worsening coronavirus situation, which saw daily confirmed cases hit a new peak and is putting hospitals under severe strain.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said contacts between people need to be sharply reduced, warning that “the situation is dramatically serious, more serious than it's been at any point in the pandemic.”

But he declined to say whether he would back blanket restrictions of the kind seen during previous stages of the pandemic, when schools, non-essential stores and other areas of public life were shuttered. Austria, faced with a similar surge in cases, this week ordered a ten-day lockdown for everybody, renewable for a further ten days.

A spokesman for outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel likewise refused to be drawn on whether she favored triggering the so-called emergency brake measures last used in April.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said there were “political realities that need to be acknowledged," such as the new majority in parliament since Germany's election on Sept. 26 that Merkel's party narrowly lost. Her government's junior partner, the center-left Social Democrats, have negotiated to form a new government with two other parties.

The new government is expected to take over in early December, but the transition period — with Merkel as caretaker — has been blamed for paralyzing Germany's response to the pandemic.

The country's disease control agency said 76,414 more cases were reported in the past 24 hours, a new record. The Robert Koch Institute said Germany also had 357 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to 100,476.

Responding to a newly discovered variant that's been spreading in South Africa, Spahn said airlines coming from there would only be able to transport German citizens. Travelers will need to go into quarantine for 14 days whether they are vaccinated or not, he said.

“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” he said.

Spahn noted that Germany was having to organize large-scale transfers of patients within the country for the first time since the outbreak began in early 2020, including with help from the military.

The Defense Ministry said a Luftwaffe A310 medevac plane will fly seriously ill patients from the southern town of Memmingen to North Rhine-Westphalia state Friday afternoon.

Hospitals in southern and eastern regions of Germany have warned they are running out of intensive care beds because of the large numbers of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

The governor of Saxony, the state with the highest per capita infection rate in Germany, called for a meeting of federal and state officials planned for Dec. 9 to be brought forward.

“Hesitancy will be punished,” Michael Kretschmer told German media group RND.

“We need to scale down public and economic life as much as possible and provide financial help to affected companies,” he was quoted as saying.

In the meantime Germany is releasing 18 million doses of vaccine over a ten-day period to meet demand for boosters and first shots for people who haven't had any yet.

About 68.3% of the country's 83 million inhabitants are fully vaccinated, below the 75% minimum threshold eyed by the government.

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Acting German Health Minister Jens Spahn briefs the media on the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka

Acting German Health Minister Jens Spahn briefs the media on the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)
Caption
Acting German Health Minister Jens Spahn briefs the media on the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka

Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka

Caption
Intensive care nurses treat a patient severely ill with Covid-19 in the Corona intensive care unit at the University Hospital in Halle/Saale on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states.(Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)

Credit: Hendrik Schmidt

Intensive care nurses treat a patient severely ill with Covid-19 in the Corona intensive care unit at the University Hospital in Halle/Saale on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states.(Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)
Caption
Intensive care nurses treat a patient severely ill with Covid-19 in the Corona intensive care unit at the University Hospital in Halle/Saale on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states.(Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)

Credit: Hendrik Schmidt

Credit: Hendrik Schmidt

Caption
Intensive care nurses treat patients severely ill with Covid-19 disease in the Corona intensive care unit at the University Hospital in Halle/Saale on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states.(Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)

Credit: Hendrik Schmidt

Intensive care nurses treat patients severely ill with Covid-19 disease in the Corona intensive care unit at the University Hospital in Halle/Saale on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states.(Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)
Caption
Intensive care nurses treat patients severely ill with Covid-19 disease in the Corona intensive care unit at the University Hospital in Halle/Saale on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states.(Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)

Credit: Hendrik Schmidt

Credit: Hendrik Schmidt

Caption
A ambulance stands at Gate 1 of the airport Memmingen, Germany Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 . The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states. (Peter Kneffel/dpa via AP)

Credit: Peter Kneffel

A ambulance stands at Gate 1 of the airport Memmingen, Germany Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 . The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states. (Peter Kneffel/dpa via AP)
Caption
A ambulance stands at Gate 1 of the airport Memmingen, Germany Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 . The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states. (Peter Kneffel/dpa via AP)

Credit: Peter Kneffel

Credit: Peter Kneffel

Caption
Acting German Health Minister Jens Spahn and Lothar H. Wieler, President of Germany's disease control agency Robert Koch Institute brief the media on the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka

Acting German Health Minister Jens Spahn and Lothar H. Wieler, President of Germany's disease control agency Robert Koch Institute brief the media on the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)
Caption
Acting German Health Minister Jens Spahn and Lothar H. Wieler, President of Germany's disease control agency Robert Koch Institute brief the media on the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka

Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka

Caption
Acting German Health Minister Jens Spahn briefs the media on the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka

Acting German Health Minister Jens Spahn briefs the media on the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)
Caption
Acting German Health Minister Jens Spahn briefs the media on the current situation of the coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa via AP)

Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka

Credit: Bernd von Jutrczenka

Caption
A Bundeswehr aircraft stands with its side flap open at the airport in Memmingen, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states. (Peter Kneffel/dpa via AP)

Credit: Peter Kneffel

A Bundeswehr aircraft stands with its side flap open at the airport in Memmingen, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states. (Peter Kneffel/dpa via AP)
Caption
A Bundeswehr aircraft stands with its side flap open at the airport in Memmingen, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. The German air force Luftwaffe will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients from hospitals in Bavaria to northern German states. (Peter Kneffel/dpa via AP)

Credit: Peter Kneffel

Credit: Peter Kneffel

Caption
A patient with COVID-19 disease gets prepared to be transferred from Thueringen Kliniken hospital to a hospital in Hanover by an emergency intensive care mobile in Saalfeld, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bodo Schackow/dpa via AP)

Credit: Bodo Schackow

A patient with COVID-19 disease gets prepared to be transferred from Thueringen Kliniken hospital to a hospital in Hanover by an emergency intensive care mobile in Saalfeld, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bodo Schackow/dpa via AP)
Caption
A patient with COVID-19 disease gets prepared to be transferred from Thueringen Kliniken hospital to a hospital in Hanover by an emergency intensive care mobile in Saalfeld, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Bodo Schackow/dpa via AP)

Credit: Bodo Schackow

Credit: Bodo Schackow

Caption
People stand in a queue outside a shopping center and wait to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)

Credit: Paul Zinken

People stand in a queue outside a shopping center and wait to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)
Caption
People stand in a queue outside a shopping center and wait to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)

Credit: Paul Zinken

Credit: Paul Zinken

Caption
A stock trader looks at his monitors in the trading room of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. A news about a new coronavirus mutation in southern Africa have dealt a heavy blow to the German stock market. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)

Credit: Arne Dedert

A stock trader looks at his monitors in the trading room of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. A news about a new coronavirus mutation in southern Africa have dealt a heavy blow to the German stock market. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)
Caption
A stock trader looks at his monitors in the trading room of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. A news about a new coronavirus mutation in southern Africa have dealt a heavy blow to the German stock market. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)

Credit: Arne Dedert

Credit: Arne Dedert

Caption
A stock trader looks at his monitors in the trading room of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. A news about a new coronavirus mutation in southern Africa have dealt a heavy blow to the German stock market. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)

Credit: Arne Dedert

A stock trader looks at his monitors in the trading room of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. A news about a new coronavirus mutation in southern Africa have dealt a heavy blow to the German stock market. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)
Caption
A stock trader looks at his monitors in the trading room of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. A news about a new coronavirus mutation in southern Africa have dealt a heavy blow to the German stock market. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP)

Credit: Arne Dedert

Credit: Arne Dedert