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The country recorded 179.8 virus infections per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, a new record and significantly more than the 149 per 100,000 reported a week ago by the Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control center.

It also surpassed its previous daily death toll, with Germany’s 16 states reporting that 952 more people had died from the virus, the institute said. That was much higher than the previous daily record set Friday of 598 deaths, though it included two days of figures from the severely affected eastern state of Saxony, which it did not report on Tuesday. It raised the total death toll from the country’s pandemic to 23,427.

“It’s as if the virus wants to remind us how important what we are doing now is,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said of the surge in deaths reported the day the new restrictions go into effect.

Berlin Germany
An elderly woman looks into a window of a closed Leiser shoe store as the closed Christmas stalls are ready to be transported on the nearly empty Tauentzienstrasse on the first day of a nationwide hard shutdown before Christmas on the second day of the coronavirus pandemic on 16 from December. , 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Getty)

Faced with an exponential increase in cases in October, Germany implemented a “lockdown light” in early November, closing bars and restaurants but leaving stores open. The measures slowed the weekly rise in new infections but did not reduce them, prompting officials to take more drastic measures.

In addition to closing shops and transferring children to distance learning in the days leading up to the Christmas holidays, private gatherings are limited to two households with a maximum of five people, among other things.

On Berlin’s exclusive Kurfuerstendamm boulevard, Berlin resident Noury ​​Oeddin looked around at the empty streets and closed shops in disbelief as the closure measures announced Sunday went into effect.

“It’s very strange, it’s not normal,” said the 46-year-old bakery manager. “I don’t know what these politicians want to do, they left everything open for too long and now all of a sudden we had to buy everything quickly in two days. We the people no longer know what they are doing.”

Retired Hans-Joachim Pauer said, however, that the measures were understandable.

“This is certainly bad for the economy, but what alternative do we have?” the 71-year-old asked. “Certainly not good.”

Grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, and other businesses that provide services that are deemed essential, including Christmas tree vendors, may remain open.

In Saxony, where the virus is spreading the fastest in Germany at the moment, hospitals are filling up. The state governor said more drastic restrictions might be necessary, calling it “pure poison” when there were still too many people leaving.

Mainz, germany
People walk in a pedestrian zone during regular store opening hours in Mainz, Germany, on December 16, 2020. Germany has entered a tougher lockdown, shutting shops and schools in an effort to stubbornly reduce new cases high of the coronavirus. (AP)

The restrictions are expected to last until at least January 10, but they enjoy wide support, with the latest polls showing that more than 80 percent of Germans either approve of the closure measures or think they should be stricter.

“This year, I don’t think Christmas is that important, given the facts we have in society right now,” said Stella Kretschmer, who was picking up a recipe in the western city of Cologne.

The 27-year-old student said she was in favor of closing the stores.

“For me, consumption is not the most important thing,” he said, adding, however, that he does “feel sorry for people who … have to fear for their work.”

Germany was widely praised for slowing the spread of its outbreak in the spring, but as people relaxed with the rules of distancing and masking over the summer, the number of cases began to rise again.

While daily new cases peaked in March at around 6,000, they are now more than four times that level, with 27,728 new cases reported Wednesday by the Robert Koch Institute.

German officials have lobbied the European Union regulatory agency to speed up approval of a coronavirus vaccine, and the European Medicines Agency has scheduled a meeting for Monday on the matter. With vaccinations expected to start before the end of the year, German officials have urged people to be patient and respect regulations during the holidays.

Spahn, the health minister, said Germany was ready and could start vaccinating within two to four days after EMA approval.

“They are difficult days and at the same time they are days that give rise to optimism, to hope, because there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he told legislators. “Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic and we are well prepared for this path.”

Cologne, Germany
General view of the waiting room inside the completed coronavirus vaccination center in a hall at the Koelnmesse fair complex during the center’s presentation to the media on December 15, 2020 in Cologne, Germany. (Getty)

– Reported with Associated Press

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