German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a fresh wave of restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, as the country grapples with its biggest ever surge in virus cases.
Germany, which currently has a higher vaccination rate than the U.S. at about 67.24 percent, is—like many neighboring countries—experiencing a record spike in COVID-19 cases.
On Thursday the country reported its highest daily surge in COVID-19 cases at 65,371 new infections, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s disease control agency.
It marked the first time Germany had reported more than 60,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day.
Merkel, the outgoing German chancellor, said the “dramatic” situation was the result of the fourth wave “hitting our country with full force.”
Although Germany’s vaccination rate surpasses that of the U.S., which is currently 58.9 percent per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe.
After a crisis meeting with Germany’s 16 state premiers, Merkel announced she would roll out more stringent restrictions for the unvaccinated to tackle the spike in the country.
In areas that surpass a threshold of three people hospitalized with COVID-19 per 100,000, only those who are vaccinated against COVID-19, or have been infected before, will be able to enter places such as restaurants and cultural and sporting venues.
According to Politico, 12 states currently breach that threshold.
Additionally, further restrictions will also be rolled out in states that surpass a threshold of nine hospitalizations per 100,000 people, Merkel said.
“The current pandemic situation in Germany is dramatic, I can’t say it any other way,” she told mayors on Wednesday. “It would be a disaster to act only when the intensive care units are full, because then it would be too late.”
Merkel and Germany’s 16 state premiers also agreed to roll out a vaccine mandate for care home and hospital workers.
“We are currently heading toward a serious emergency,” said RKI director Lothar Wieler. “We are going to have a really terrible Christmas if we don’t take countermeasures now.
The U.S. is similarly experiencing an uptick in COVID-19 infections as the holiday season approaches.
According to data from the CDC, as of November 15, the U.S. recorded an average of 83,671 COVID-19 cases over the past week. In contrast, on October 24, the country had a weekly average of around 63,000 new infections.
On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he believes COVID-19 booster doses will be critical to the nation reaching endemic level.
“To me, if you want to get to endemic, you have got to get the level of infection so low that it does not have an impact on society, on your life, on your economy,” Fauci said during a Reuters Total Health conference. “People will still get infected. People might still get hospitalized, but the level would be so low that we don’t think about it all the time and it doesn’t influence what we do.”
“Look what other countries are doing now about adopting a booster campaign virtually for everybody. I think if we do that, and we do it in earnest, I think by the spring we can have pretty good control of this,” he added.