Germans urged to cancel big events as Covid cases soar in central Europe

Credit: AP

German's have been urged to cancel or avoid large events and to reduce contact as the country's Covid infection rate hit record highs.

Germany's disease control centre, The Robert Koch Institute, said their infection rate had climbed to 263.7 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days, up from 249.1 the previous day.

The latest available data for the UK shows cases, the seven day average to November 6, show there were 356.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Germany reported 48,640 new cases on Friday, a day after the daily total topped 50,000 for the first time.

Another 191 deaths took Germany’s total so far to 97,389.

The rise in cases in the EU's most populous country has been mirrored in two other German-speaking countries, Austria and Switzerland.

Austria has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in recent days Credit: AP

The German government has said it will declare neighbouring Austria, whose infection rate is far higher, a “high-risk area” starting on Sunday, which means people arriving from Austria who have not been vaccinated or recovered will have to go into quarantine.

Austria's chancellor said on Friday it will impose restrictions on unvaccinated people after cases soared.

Starting on Monday, unvaccinated people in the regions of Upper Austria and Salzburg will only be allowed to leave home for essential reasons, such as buying groceries or going to the doctor.

The Czech Republic and Hungary were also added to the list of “high-risk areas”.

Switzerland reported 3,922 new cases on Friday, numbers not seen since last autumn.

While the infection rate in Germany is not yet as high as in some other European countries, its relentless rise has set off alarm bells.

Angela Merkel Credit: Phil Noble/PA

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to meet the country’s 16 state governors to co-ordinate nationwide measures next week, and parliament is mulling legislation that would provide a new legal framework for restrictions over the winter.

“We must now do everything necessary to break this momentum,” health minister Jens Spahn told reporters.

“Otherwise it will be a bitter December for the whole country.”

In its weekly report released late on Thursday, the Robert Koch Institute said it “urgently advises cancelling larger events if possible, but also reducing all other unnecessary contacts”.

If such events cannot be avoided, it added, people should take a test before attending, regardless of whether they are vaccinated.

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The head of the institute, Lothar Wieler, said on Friday that fewer hospital beds are available than at any time during the pandemic, with more than half of intensive care units reporting “acute staff shortages” as they did during Germany’s previous peak in January.

In the worst-affected areas, he said, the number of people attending large events should be reduced or authorities should consider banning such events and closing bars or clubs.

Most German regions restrict access to many indoor facilities and events to people who have been vaccinated against the virus, have recovered from Covid-19 or recently received negative test results — with the latter category now being excluded in an increasing number of areas.

Lothar Wieler and Jens Spahn Credit: Michael Sohn/AP

Germany has struggled to bring new momentum to its vaccination campaign lately, with a little over two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated, and has baulked so far at ordering vaccine mandates for any professional group.

Germany's vaccination rate has now fallen behind many other EU states.

Officials also want to ensure more people who were inoculated months ago get booster jabs.

Mr Spahn said he will order the resumption of free rapid Covid-19 tests, which were scrapped a month ago in an effort to persuade more people to get vaccinated.

He said he favours limiting public events to the vaccinated and those who have recovered from Covid-19 and also requiring them to be tested beforehand.