Disease center urges Germans to cancel or avoid big events

Commuters wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus as they walk through the public transport station Brandenburger Tor in central Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. Germany battles a fourth wave of the coronavirus with high number of infections in the recent days. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Caption
Commuters wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus as they walk through the public transport station Brandenburger Tor in central Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. Germany battles a fourth wave of the coronavirus with high number of infections in the recent days. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Germany’s disease control center is calling for people to cancel or avoid large events and to reduce their contacts as the country’s coronavirus infection rate hits the latest in a string of new highs

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's disease control center is calling for people to cancel or avoid large events and to reduce their contacts as the country's coronavirus infection rate hits the latest in a string of new highs.

The center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that Germany's infection rate climbed to 263.7 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days, up from 249.1 the previous day.

Germany reported 48,640 new cases Friday, a day after the daily total topped 50,000 for the first time. Another 191 COVID-19 deaths brought Germany's total in the pandemic so far to 97,389.

While the infection rate isn't yet as high as in some other European countries, its relentless rise in Germany has set off alarm bells. Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to meet with the country's 16 state governors to coordinate 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 Thursday, the Robert Koch Institute said it “urgently advises canceling or avoiding larger events if possible, but also reducing all other unnecessary contacts.” If such events can't be avoided, it added, people should take a test before attending, regardless of whether they are vaccinated.

The head of the institute, Lothar Wieler, said Friday that there are fewer usable hospital beds 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. But enforcement is often slack.

Germany has struggled to bring new momentum to its vaccination campaign lately, with a bit over two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated, and has balked so far at ordering vaccine mandates for any professional group. Officials also want to ensure more people who were inoculated months ago get booster shots.

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

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

Germany on Friday declared neighboring Austria, whose infection rate is far higher, a "high-risk area" effective Sunday. That means people arriving from Austria who haven't been vaccinated or haven't recovered recently from COVID-19 will have to go into quarantine.

The Czech Republic and Hungary also were added to the list of “high-risk areas,” but the United States was removed.

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Caption
German Health Minister Jens Spahn, right, and Lothar H. Wieler, left, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute German national agency and research institute, responsible for disease control and prevention, attend a press conference on the current coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Credit: Michael Sohn

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, right, and Lothar H. Wieler, left, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute German national agency and research institute, responsible for disease control and prevention, attend a press conference on the current coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Caption
German Health Minister Jens Spahn, right, and Lothar H. Wieler, left, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute German national agency and research institute, responsible for disease control and prevention, attend a press conference on the current coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Credit: Michael Sohn

Credit: Michael Sohn

Caption
A medical worker holds a Corona rapid test kit in a test van in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Numbers of Corona infections are steadily rising again. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Credit: Michael Probst

A medical worker holds a Corona rapid test kit in a test van in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Numbers of Corona infections are steadily rising again. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Caption
A medical worker holds a Corona rapid test kit in a test van in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Numbers of Corona infections are steadily rising again. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Credit: Michael Probst

Credit: Michael Probst

Caption
Commuters wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus as they arrives at the public transport station Brandenburger Tor in central Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. Germany battles a fourth wave of the coronavirus with high number of infections in the recent days. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Commuters wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus as they arrives at the public transport station Brandenburger Tor in central Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. Germany battles a fourth wave of the coronavirus with high number of infections in the recent days. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Caption
Commuters wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus as they arrives at the public transport station Brandenburger Tor in central Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. Germany battles a fourth wave of the coronavirus with high number of infections in the recent days. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Caption
An 87-year-old man receives his booster shot at the vaccination center in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Germany’s national disease control center has reported a record-high number of more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases. The infections spike comes as German lawmakers are mulling new legislation that would pave the way for new coronavirus measures. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Credit: Michael Probst

An 87-year-old man receives his booster shot at the vaccination center in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Germany’s national disease control center has reported a record-high number of more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases. The infections spike comes as German lawmakers are mulling new legislation that would pave the way for new coronavirus measures. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Caption
An 87-year-old man receives his booster shot at the vaccination center in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Germany’s national disease control center has reported a record-high number of more than 50,000 daily coronavirus cases. The infections spike comes as German lawmakers are mulling new legislation that would pave the way for new coronavirus measures. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Credit: Michael Probst

Credit: Michael Probst

Caption
German Health Minister Jens Spahn arrives for a joint press conference with Lothar H. Wieler, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute German national agency and research institute and responsible for disease control and prevention, on the current coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Credit: Michael Sohn

German Health Minister Jens Spahn arrives for a joint press conference with Lothar H. Wieler, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute German national agency and research institute and responsible for disease control and prevention, on the current coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Caption
German Health Minister Jens Spahn arrives for a joint press conference with Lothar H. Wieler, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute German national agency and research institute and responsible for disease control and prevention, on the current coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Credit: Michael Sohn

Credit: Michael Sohn

Caption
Lothar H. Wieler, left, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute German national agency and research institute and responsible for disease control and prevention, holds a map of Germany as he and German Health Minister Jens Spahn, right, attend a press conference on the current coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Credit: Michael Sohn

Lothar H. Wieler, left, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute German national agency and research institute and responsible for disease control and prevention, holds a map of Germany as he and German Health Minister Jens Spahn, right, attend a press conference on the current coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Caption
Lothar H. Wieler, left, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute German national agency and research institute and responsible for disease control and prevention, holds a map of Germany as he and German Health Minister Jens Spahn, right, attend a press conference on the current coronavirus pandemic in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Credit: Michael Sohn

Credit: Michael Sohn