BERLIN, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Germany's new COVID-19 infections continued to rise and increased by 21,866 within one day, bringing the total to 727,553, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Thursday.
A week ago, the number of daily COVID-19 cases was 19,990, according to data by the federal government agency for disease control and prevention RKI. The peak was reached last Saturday with 23,399 recorded cases.
The COVID-19 situation in Germany was "still very serious," warned RKI President Lothar Wieler at a press conference on Thursday. "We must be prepared for the situation to worsen in the coming weeks," said Wieler.
The number of deaths related to COVID-19 in Germany, which is in the middle of a month-long lockdown to counteract the spread of the virus, increased by 215 on Thursday to a total of 11,982, according to the RKI.
At the same time, the number of COVID-19 patients who need intensive care treatment also continued to increase to 3,127 patients by Wednesday, according to the latest daily situation report by the RKI.
If infection rates remained at current levels, the number of COVID-19 patients treated in intensive care units in German hospitals was likely to double to over 6,000 before the end of November, according to Minister of Health Jens Spahn.
Although Germany's health system could cope with such numbers, an increase beyond 6,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients could lead to a point where the system was overburdened. "The numbers must not rise higher," Spahn told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the European Commission formally approved an agreement for up to 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech and U.S. company Pfizer. The distribution of the vaccine would be based on the population size of the EU member states.
A majority of German citizens seem willing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to an ongoing survey by the market research institute YouGov. Only 27 percent of respondents were not willing to receive the new COVID-19 vaccine.
In her video podcast on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that "nobody will be forced to be vaccinated, it is a voluntary decision."
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including Germany, France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are racing to find a vaccine.
According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 3, there were 202 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 47 of them were in clinical trials.