Germany has recorded its highest daily infections of the pandemic which outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel said was “dramatic” as she warned that a fourth wave was “hitting our country with full force”.
As the northern hemisphere heads into winter, the virus has exploded in Germany where vaccination rates are among the lowest in Europe at 67 per cent.
A record 65,371 infections were reported in the last 24-hour period, exceeding 60,000 for the first time and an increase of more than 12,000 from the previous 24 hours.
“The current pandemic situation in Germany is dramatic, I can’t say it any other way,” said Ms Merkel.
The surge in Delta cases has forced the government to become the latest in Europe to take a stand against people who remain unvaccinated.
The restrictions, which parliament’s upper house will debate on Friday, include measures for the workplace, public transport and care homes but rule out closing schools or businesses.
For example, citizens would be required to provide proof of vaccination, a certificate of recovery, or a negative test to ride public transport on top of the existing rules around entering some venues and settings.
The head of Germany’s disease control body, The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), warned the country faced a “serious emergency”.
“We are heading into a serious emergency. We will have an extremely unpleasant Christmas if we do not act to stop this,” RKI president Lothar Wieler said.
The resurgence of the virus has been blamed on the low vaccination rate, as well as waning immunity over time, which has prompted an urgent drive to boost jab levels.
However hospitalisations and deaths are lower this time around compared to the period before vaccinations.
New coronavirus infections in the Netherlands also jumped to their highest level on record on Thursday as they topped 20,000 for the third day in a row.
About 23,600 new cases were registered, the country’s health institute said, up from just under 21,000 a day before.
Meanwhile, the number of new coronavirus infections within 24 hours in South Korea rose to the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, 3292 new cases were recorded, the second consecutive day that the figure exceeded 3000, the health authorities announced on Thursday.
The authorities have been struggling with an increase in infections since contact restrictions and distancing rules were relaxed in early November.
Victoria’s new normal
Victorians fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can pack into pubs and hit the dancefloor again, after more freedoms were returned ahead of summer.
Almost all of Victoria’s remaining coronavirus restrictions lifted just before midnight on Friday, as the state inches closer to 90 per cent full vaccination in those aged over 12.
The changes mean double-dosed Victorians are now able to dance in clubs and home visitor limits as well as cafe, bar and restaurant density caps have been dumped.
Non-essential retail has joined the state’s vaccinated economy, banning unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people from visiting those shops unless they are aged under 12 years and two months or have a valid exemption.
The Australian Retailers Association said retailers had been caught on the hop in the lead up to a busy sales period and called for leniency in enforcing vaccine checks for customers.
“Retailers are having to scramble today to ensure they’re ready to comply with the new restrictions for tomorrow’s trade — well ahead of the original November 24 deadline,” ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said.
While masks will no longer be required for customers visiting hospitality venues, workers must continue wearing them.
Masks will not be needed in workplaces such as offices, but will be required in primary schools, health, aged care or justice settings.
They must also be worn on public transport, ride-shares or taxis, and will remain for a few more weeks in retail.
Indoor events will be allowed to host up to 30,000 punters, but one-off approval is needed to exceed that capacity.
Events held outdoors can exceed 30,000 if they publish their COVID-Safe plans, paving the way for the MCG to welcome a full capacity crowd for the Boxing Day Test.
There are also major changes to isolation rules, including reducing the number of days positive cases must quarantine from 14 to 10.
Premier Daniel Andrews said Victorians had earned the freedoms through their strong vaccine uptake, with the state predicted to reach its 90 per cent full vaccination target at the weekend.