German State Closes Christmas Markets, Hospitals Consider Rationing Care As COVID Spikes

As Germany enters a "nationwide state of emergency," one state has closed its Christmas markets for the year.

Bavaria has announced this year's Christmas markets have been canceled due to concerns regarding virus transmission, the Associated Press reports. Bars and clubs in the state will also be closed for three weeks. Governor Markus Soeder said in a press conference that regions with more than 1,000 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants per week would face stricter restrictions.

These moves come as COVID infections rise across both the state and the country. The country's Robert Koch Institute announced that regular medical care is no longer guaranteed in some parts of Germany. Lothar Wieler, who runs the agency, attributes this to hospitals and intensive care wards becoming overflowed with patients.

"All of Germany is one big outbreak," said Wieler during a press conference in Berlin. "This is a nationwide state of emergency. We need to pull the emergency brake."

States could be taking drastic measures to treat patients. Chancellor Angela Merkel recently agreed with governors across the country that hospitals should introduce patient thresholds. These would link the number of hospital admissions attributed to the virus per 100,000 people over seven days. Official confirmation on whether these measures will be implemented has not been given.

The Robert Koch Institute said that cases across the country had topped 50,000 for the third day in a row. They also reported an additional 201 deaths attributed to the virus. Over 98,000 people in the country have died from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Christmas Market Merkel
As Germany enters a "nationwide state of emergency," Bavaria has closed its Christmas markets for the year. Above, Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, talks to a rostbratwurst seller in Berlin, Germany, December 12, 2017, as she visits the Christmas market on the Breitscheid Square. AP Photo/Michael Sohn

The German air force confirmed a report by Bild that it was preparing to help transfer patients to clinics with free beds.

Wieler called for urgent additional measures to tackle the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Wieler's comments came as the upper house of parliament approved on Friday new measures to control the outbreak proposed by the center-left alliance that emerged after the September 26 national election. The measures, which come into force Wednesday, include requirements for people to prove they are vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access shared workplaces or public transport. Employees will also have to work from home whenever possible.

Some states are also considering mandatory vaccinations for some professional groups, such as medical staff and nursing home employees.

Neighboring Austria, which has also been hit by a surge in new cases, announced it would extend a nationwide lockdown to vaccinated people beginning November 22, and introduce compulsory vaccinations from February.

Such measures are not currently being discussed in Germany, where the outgoing Merkel government and the three-party alliance hoping to replace it are at odds over how to respond to the pandemic.

Germany's current health minister, Jens Spahn, called Friday for a "national common effort" to respond to the rising case numbers.

"In the short term we won't manage to break the wave (of infections) with vaccinations and booster shots alone," he said at a joint news conference with Wieler, who called on Germans to help limit the spread of the virus by reducing their social contacts.

Wieler Report
Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German national agency and research institute for disease control and prevention, shows a graph with the latest COVID-19 figures during a press conference on November 19, 2021 in Berlin. Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images