Germany to pass 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 as virus surges again

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Germany is set to cross the 100,000 death mark from COVID-19 this week, a milestone that many of its neighbors crossed months ago, but Western Europe’s most populous country hopes to avoid. Had it.

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Discipline, a robust health care system and the rollout of several vaccines – among them indigenous – were aimed at preventing the outbreak of a cold that struck Germany last year.

In practice, the Germans faced a confusing array of pandemic regulations, lax enforcement and a national election – followed by a drawn-out government transition during which senior politicians risked the prospect of further lifting restrictions even as infection rates soared. Put.

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“No one had the courage to take the lead and announce unpopular measures,” said Uwe Jensens, head of the intensive care department at St. Antonius Hospital in Eschweiler, west of Cologne.

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“Lack of leadership is the reason we are here now,” he said.

Doctors like Janssens are bracing for an influx of coronavirus patients as confirmed cases hit fresh daily highs, experts say is also being fueled by vaccine skeptics.

Resistance to getting the shot – which is developed by German company BioNTech in collaboration with US partner Pfizer – remains strong among a large minority of the country. Vaccination rates have stalled for 68% of the population, far below the government’s target of 75% or more.

“We’ve got increasingly young people in intensive care,” Jensens said. “The amount of time they are treated is quite long and it blocks intensive care beds for a long period of time.”

He said older people who got vaccinated in early 2021 are also seeing their immunity weaken, leaving them vulnerable to serious disease again. echo Problems seen during initial vaccine rollout, officials have struggled to meet the demand for boosters, even as they tried to encourage the holdouts to get their first shots.

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Some German politicians are suggesting that it is time to consider vaccine mandates, either for specific occupations or for entire populations. Austria took this step last weekThe announcement of COVID-19 shots will become mandatory for everyone starting in February, after the latest outbreak of vaccination fuels fresh outbreaks and a similar reluctance to seek hospitalization.

Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel said in June that she does not support such a measure. Indicating a possible change in the situation, Merkel called on the leaders Three parties in talks to form the next government for talks at the chancellor on Tuesday to discuss the pandemic situation.

Merkel’s potential successor, current finance minister Olaf Scholz of the centre-left Social Democrats, has declined to comment on whether he would support mandatory COVID-19 shots.

Along with environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats, his party recently passed a law that replaces the existing legal foundation for pandemic restrictions with narrower measures starting Wednesday. These include requiring workers to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test to their employers. But the change also makes it difficult for Germany’s 16 governors to impose a strict lockdown without the approval of state legislatures.

Getting a majority can be particularly difficult in states with the highest number of cases. A recent study found Infection rates are higher in areas where the most correct option or AfD for Germany is strongest. The party has campaigned against pandemic restrictions and polls show that its supporters hold a sharply negative view of the vaccine mandate compared to the rest of the voting population.

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While the AfD is not expected to win any of Germany’s four regional elections next year, experts say political campaigns may divert attention from difficult topics such as the handling of the pandemic.

“Often the focus is on things that will drive the vote forward, rather than unpopular decisions,” said Catherine Smallwood, a coronavirus expert in the World Health Organization’s office for Europe.

“If measures and decisions are not taken in a timely and concrete manner, the virus could contribute to the spread,” Smallwood said in a recent interview.

Germany’s disease control agency on Wednesday confirmed a record 66,884 new cases and 335 deaths. The total death toll from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic was 99,768, the Robert Koch Institute said. The German weekly Die Zeit, which makes its calculations based on data from the local health authority, said the 100,000 limit had already been passed.

Meanwhile, health officials in five eastern states and Bavaria have activated an emergency system to coordinate the distribution of 80 critically ill patients to other parts of the country. Earlier this month, two patients were moved from southern Germany to Italy for treatment, a significant change from last year, when Italian patients were being referred to German hospitals.

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The number of intensive care beds per capita in Germany was almost four times higher than in Italy, experts say was a factor. The Key to the Low German Mortality at the Time,

Since January, Germany has had to cut its ICU capacity to 4,000 beds due to staff shortages, many of whom have left because of the pressure they endured earlier in the pandemic.

About the condition of doctors and nurses in the coming months, Janssens said, “It is difficult for people to cope with it physically and psychologically.”

“We will survive, somehow,” he said.

European Office of the World Health Organization warned this week The availability of hospital beds will again determine how well the region copes with the expected increase in cases, along with vaccination rates, in the coming months.

The agency said on Tuesday that based on current trends, Europe could report another 700,000 deaths in the 53-nation region by next spring, with 49 countries expected to see “high or extreme stress in intensive care units”.

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