Explosion in the number of cases, but measured restrictions: after being an exception in Europe during the first wave of COVID-19, Germany is hit hard by the epidemic rebound and Angela Merkel has all the difficulties to find the response.
• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic
“The situation has become generally very serious”, alarmed Thursday the president of the institute of sanitary watch Robert Koch (RKI) Lothar Wieler for whom the virus could “spread in an uncontrolled way”, if nothing was done .
For the first time since the start of the epidemic, the number of cases has exceeded 10,000 new daily infections, reaching 11,287 additional cases in 24 hours, according to figures released Thursday.
“The more people in private circles get infected, the more they will spread” the virus elsewhere, Wieler warned.
However, he assured that it was still possible to “contain” the spread of the pandemic “by systematically respecting barrier gestures”, but also by “regularly ventilating” the closed rooms: “we are not powerless”.
Germany had so far weathered the crisis rather well and, even during the crisis peak in March, had not surpassed 6,300 new daily infections.
Avoiding the saturation of its hospitals, the country even welcomed at the time dozens of patients from Italy, France or Belgium in order to relieve their strained health system.
Hospitals on the lookout
The current figures are far from making the country one of the most affected by the resurgence of the virus in Europe. But there are keen fears that the situation will escalate when few coercive measures have been reimposed, unlike the announcements of curfews and containment which have multiplied elsewhere in recent days.
The number of patients in intensive care has doubled in two weeks: they are 964 across the country, including 430 on a ventilator. The record dates back to mid-April with 2,933 “Covid patients” in intensive care.
However, 21,401 intensive care beds out of the 29,799 in Germany are currently occupied.
Germany has declared a total of 380,762 infections since the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak and 9,875 people have lost their lives.
If restrictions, such as the wearing of masks or nightly closures of bars and restaurants, are gradually returning locally, the German government and Chancellor Angela Merkel are struggling to impose common measures across the country, where health management prevails of the Länder.
The regions fear to suffocate their economy again, which is slowly recovering after the almost total cessation of activity in the spring.
The Chancellor must be content to appeal to individual responsibility, urging the population to reduce social relations as much as possible by “staying at home” as much as possible.
A crisis meeting last week between the government and the 16 regions failed to agree on common national restrictions. The Chancellor did not hide her frustration, saying she was “dissatisfied” with the status quo.
Even this strategy of the German government is undermined in several Länder where the justice has revoked certain measures deemed disproportionate, such as the prohibition of stays by holidaymakers from areas of the country deemed to be at risk or the night closure of bars and restaurants in Berlin .
In the meantime, the Germans are replenishing their toilet paper reserve: purchases jumped 90% last week, returning to the levels that preceded the near-containment of spring, according to the national statistical institute.
Bavaria, one of the only Land that had decided on strict confinement at the time, imposed at the beginning of the week the isolation of the Berchtesgaden alpine station (south), near the Austrian border, where the contamination rate s ‘is gone, without the origin of this dynamic being identified.
And this new fight against the virus could have political consequences: the Bavarian leader, the conservative Markus Söder, in favor of a very restrictive approach to fight the pandemic, has carved out a national stature in recent months and is one of the potential successors of Merkel at the end of her fourth term at the end of 2021.