Record daily German COVID deaths spark Merkel 'mega-lockdown' plan - Bild


A general view of a vaccination centre, temporarily set up in the Erika-Hess ice stadium to fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Berlin, Germany, January 14, 2021. Kay Nietfeld/Pool via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany recorded a new record number of deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday, prompting calls for an even tighter lockdown after the country emerged relatively unscathed in 2020.

Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted a "mega-lockdown", mass-selling newspaper Bild reported, shutting down the country almost completely for fear of fast-spreading variant of the virus first detected in Britain.

She was considering measures including shutting down both local and long-distance public transport, though such steps had not yet been decided, Bild reported.

While Germany's total deaths per capita since the pandemicbegan remain far lower than the United States, its daily percapita mortality since mid-December has often exceeded that ofthe United States.

Germany's daily death toll currently equates to about 15deaths per million people, versus a 13 U.S. deaths per million.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 25,164 newcoronavirus cases and 1,244 fatalities, bringing Germany's totaldeath toll since the start of the pandemic to 43,881.

Germany initially managed the pandemic better than itsneighbours with a strict lockdown last spring, but it has seen asharp rise in cases and deaths in recent months, with the RKIsaying people were not taking the virus seriously enough.

RKI president Lothar Wieler said on Thursday restrictionswere not being implemented as consistently as they were duringthe first wave and said more people should work from home,adding that the current lockdown needed to be tightened further.

Germany introduced a partial lockdown in November that keptshops and schools open, but it tightened the rules inmid-December, closing non-essential stores, and children havenot returned to classrooms since the Christmas holidays.

Hospitals in 10 out of Germany's 16 states were facingbottlenecks as 85% of intensive care unit bedswere occupied by coronavirus patients, Wieler said.

A meeting of regional leaders planned for Jan. 25 to discusswhether to extend the lockdown into February should be broughtforward, said Winfried Kretschmann, the premier of the state ofBaden-Wuerttemberg.

Merkel was due to speak to ministers on Thursday about ramping up production of vaccines.

So far only about 1% of the German population has beenvaccinated, or 842,455 people, the RKI reported.

Germany has so far recorded 16 cases of people with thefast-spreading strain of the virus first detected in Britain andfour with the strain from South Africa, Wieler said, although headmitted gene sequencing of samples was not being done broadly.

Wieler urged people who were offered a COVID-19 vaccinationto accept it.

"At the end of the year we will have this pandemic undercontrol," Wieler said. Enough vaccines would then be availableto inoculate the entire population, he said.

(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle and Thomas EscrittWriting by Caroline Copley and Emma ThomassonEditing by Riham Alkousaa, Angus MacSwan, William Maclean and Nick Macfie)

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