Germany Faces 'Bitter December,' People Urged to Reduce Contact as COVID Cases Soar

The disease control center of Germany is urging people to cancel or avoid large gatherings and to reduce contact as the country's infection rates soar, the Associated Press reported.

The Robert Koch Institute reported that Germany's infection rate has increased to 263.7 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days. That's a 14.6 increase from the rate the agency reported on November 11. The country has also reported 48,640 new infection cases along with 191 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

In an effort to help reduce infections, the Robert Koch Institute urged "canceling or avoiding larger events if possible" in its weekly report, "but also reducing all other unnecessary contacts." They advised taking a COVID-19 test if you cannot avoid attending an event. Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, also said that there are fewer hospital beds available than "at any time during the pandemic," as well as fewer staff members in intensive care units.

Over two-thirds of Germany's population is fully vaccinated, with mandatory vaccinations not looking likely. However, they are looking to encourage those who were fully vaccinated to get booster shots in the near future.

"We must now do everything necessary to break this momentum," Health Minister Jens Spahn said. "Otherwise it will be a bitter December for the whole country."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Germany Virus
A man in a wheelchair is vaccinated outside a mobile vaccination center set up in the city of Duisburg, western Germany, on November 12, 2021, amid a surge of COVID-19 infections. Photo by Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

The daily total infections topped 50,000 for the first time this week.

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.

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.

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.

Spahn and Wieler
German Health Minister Jens Spahn (right) and Lothar H. Wieler, 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 on November 12, 2021. AP Photo/Michael Sohn