Germany approves new measures amid warnings of virus spike

Lawmakers wear face mask as they attend a parliament Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Caption
Lawmakers wear face mask as they attend a parliament Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Germany has approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections as Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the pandemic situation in the country “really worrying” and demanded “consequent action” to contain the spread of the virus

BERLIN (AP) — Germany approved new measures Thursday to rein in record coronavirus infections as Chancellor Angela Merkel called the pandemic situation in the country “very serious” and said it was “high time” to contain the spread of the virus.

“The situation is highly dramatic and it will be very important now that action is taken quickly, that action is taken consistently, that better control is taken,” Merkel told reporters Thursday night in Berlin. She had earlier held a videoconference with Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Germany’s 16 state governors to coordinate the country’s response to a surge in coronavirus cases.

Merkel said participants in the meeting had agreed that tightening of measures against the virus would in the future be linked to the number of hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. The states are also considering mandatory vaccinations for some professional groups such as medical staff and nursing home employees.

Earlier on Thursday, lawmakers in the Bundestag passed legislation to rein in the virus with votes from the center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties are currently negotiating to form a new government.

The new measures include requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces; a similar rule will apply to public transport. The measures need to be approved by Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, which could happen Friday.

Outgoing Chancellor Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats had wanted to extend existing rules that expire this month and which have served as the basis for numerous national and state-wide restrictions since March 2020. In the future, Germany's 16 states will only be able to impose restrictions on cultural and sports events if their regional assemblies approve the measure.

Merkel's party criticized the new rules, saying they would weaken the instruments at authorities' disposal at a time when infections are soaring again.

Germany's disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 65,371 new daily infections, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks. Total deaths are nearing 100,000, with 264 reported on Wednesday alone.

“We are currently heading toward a serious emergency,” institute director Lothar Wieler said during an online debate late Wednesday. “We are going to have a really terrible Christmas if we don't take countermeasures now.”

Wieler said Germany needs to increase its COVID-19 vaccination rate, which now stands at 67.7%, to significantly above 75%.

The eastern state of Saxony, which at 57.6% has the country's lowest immunization rate, is poised to impose a limited lockdown in response to soaring infection numbers.

Governor Michael Kretschmer said the state government would decide on a “hard and clear wave breaker” Friday lasting two to three weeks.

Official figures show Saxony had more than 761 newly confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past week, the highest rate in Germany.

Germany’s independent vaccine advisory panel said Thursday that it recommends booster shots for all people over 18. Merkel said everything would be done to make available booster shots against the virus as quickly as possible. She said that about 27 million people needed to get a booster shot soon.

Wieler, the head of the disease control agency, warned that hospitals across Germany are struggling to find beds for COVID-19 patients and those with other illnesses.

Hospitals in the southeastern district of Rottal-Inn appealed this week for nurses and doctors to get in touch, saying it could use the help of “every hand (to) cope with this difficult situation.”

Neighboring Austria recorded 15,145 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, authorities said Thursday.

The country imposed a lockdown on unvaccinated people this week. But two states — Salzburg and Upper Austria — are poised to extend the measure to vaccinated people as well

In the capital Vienna, officials sent unsolicited vaccination appointments to some 340,000 residents who haven't yet received a shot.

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Kirsten Grieshaber contributed reporting.

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Follow AP's pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and SPD candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz talk during a parliament Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Nov.18, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and SPD candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz talk during a parliament Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Nov.18, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Caption
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and SPD candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz talk during a parliament Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Nov.18, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Caption
A sign reminds of mandatory face masks at the train station in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Germany's disease control agency reported 52,826 new coronavirus cases Wednesday as infection rates continue to climb. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Credit: Martin Meissner

A sign reminds of mandatory face masks at the train station in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Germany's disease control agency reported 52,826 new coronavirus cases Wednesday as infection rates continue to climb. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Caption
A sign reminds of mandatory face masks at the train station in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Germany's disease control agency reported 52,826 new coronavirus cases Wednesday as infection rates continue to climb. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

Credit: Martin Meissner

Credit: Martin Meissner

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A medical worker carries out a rapid test in a test mobile in Frankfurt, early Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Numbers of the coronavirus infections in Germany reached a new record high on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Credit: Michael Probst

A medical worker carries out a rapid test in a test mobile in Frankfurt, early Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Numbers of the coronavirus infections in Germany reached a new record high on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Caption
A medical worker carries out a rapid test in a test mobile in Frankfurt, early Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Numbers of the coronavirus infections in Germany reached a new record high on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Credit: Michael Probst

Credit: Michael Probst

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A woman walks past an abandoned Coronavirus testing center in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. COVID-19 infections in Germany reached a new record high on Thursday. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Credit: Michael Probst

A woman walks past an abandoned Coronavirus testing center in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. COVID-19 infections in Germany reached a new record high on Thursday. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Caption
A woman walks past an abandoned Coronavirus testing center in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. COVID-19 infections in Germany reached a new record high on Thursday. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Credit: Michael Probst

Credit: Michael Probst

Caption
Lawmakers cast their votes during a parliament Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Lawmakers cast their votes during a parliament Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Caption
Lawmakers cast their votes during a parliament Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Caption
A staff member of the relief organisation Malteser prepares syringes with the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease at a vaccination bus in Unterschleissheim, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Germany's disease control agency, the The Robert Koch Institute, reported 65,371 new daily cases, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks. (Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP)

Credit: Sven Hoppe

A staff member of the relief organisation Malteser prepares syringes with the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease at a vaccination bus in Unterschleissheim, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Germany's disease control agency, the The Robert Koch Institute, reported 65,371 new daily cases, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks. (Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP)
Caption
A staff member of the relief organisation Malteser prepares syringes with the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease at a vaccination bus in Unterschleissheim, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Germany's disease control agency, the The Robert Koch Institute, reported 65,371 new daily cases, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks. (Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP)

Credit: Sven Hoppe

Credit: Sven Hoppe

Caption
A man gets his booster vaccination against the coronavirus and the COVIG-19 disease DKD Helios Clinic in Wiesbaden, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Germany's disease control agency, the The Robert Koch Institute, reported 65,371 new daily cases, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)

Credit: Boris Roessler

A man gets his booster vaccination against the coronavirus and the COVIG-19 disease DKD Helios Clinic in Wiesbaden, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Germany's disease control agency, the The Robert Koch Institute, reported 65,371 new daily cases, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)
Caption
A man gets his booster vaccination against the coronavirus and the COVIG-19 disease DKD Helios Clinic in Wiesbaden, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. Germany's disease control agency, the The Robert Koch Institute, reported 65,371 new daily cases, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)

Credit: Boris Roessler

Credit: Boris Roessler

Caption
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Olaf Scholz, Federal Finance Minister, right, meet the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Olaf Scholz, Federal Finance Minister, right, meet the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)
Caption
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Olaf Scholz, Federal Finance Minister, right, meet the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Caption
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets the media during a news conference in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets the media during a news conference in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)
Caption
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets the media during a news conference in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Caption
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)
Caption
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Caption
German Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, meets the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

German Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, meets the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)
Caption
German Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, meets the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Caption
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Olaf Scholz, Federal Finance Minister, meet the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Olaf Scholz, Federal Finance Minister, meet the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)
Caption
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Olaf Scholz, Federal Finance Minister, meet the media in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Caption
Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, second right, looks at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a news conference in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, second right, looks at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a news conference in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)
Caption
Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, second right, looks at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a news conference in Berlin, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021. German lawmakers have approved new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.” The measures passed in the Bundestag on Thursday includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. (Michael Kappeler, Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Credit: Michael Kappeler