October 28, 2020 at 1:35 PM EDT
Germany announces new lockdown as Europe’s hospital beds fill up
By Loveday Morris and Luisa Beck
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a month-long partial lockdown on Wednesday as intensive care beds rapidly fill and health authorities “lose control” of contact tracing.
Bars, restaurants and theaters will close for four weeks while schools and kindergartens remain open.
Outlining the measures at a news conference in Berlin, Merkel noted that the number of patients in the country’s intensive care units has doubled in the past 10 days.
“If this speed of new infections remains, we will soon reach the limits of our health-care system,” she said. “It’s clear we must act, and we must act now.”
The country has lost control of tracing infection chains, she said, with the country’s health authorities unable to identify where 75 percent of new infections come from. While Germany has more ICU capacity than most countries in Europe and overall cases lag behind France, Spain and the United Kingdom, infections are growing exponentially.
Germany, which was praised for its response in the first wave of the pandemic, recorded 14,964 new cases on Wednesday, twice the number of just a week earlier. Industry groups said a new lockdown would be a “death blow.”
As Merkel and state leaders hashed out new measures over a video call, hundreds of restaurant and bar owners marched to the Chancellery. A van pulled a coffin on a trailer with the words “Entertainment Sector” on the side.
The closures were a “very hard decision,” Jens Spahn, the country’s health minister who himself came down with coronavirus last week, told German radio. But it was necessary, he said. Germany took in ICU patients from the Netherlands this week, but its own beds are rapidly filling.
“If we wait until the intensive care units are full, it will be too late,” Spahn said.