BERLIN (AP) – Coronavirus deaths topped the 50,000 mark in Germany on Friday after a rapid rise in recent weeks, although infection numbers appear to be finally dropping.
The Robert Koch Institute. The country’s disease control center reported 859 deaths in the last 24 hours on Friday, raising the national total since the start of the pandemic to 50,642.
Germany had registered a relatively low death toll in the first phase of the pandemic and was able to lift many of the restrictions quickly.
But infections reached higher levels during the fall and winter. In recent weeks, the country of 83 million people has reported hundreds of deaths, sometimes more than 1,000, daily. Germany hit the grim 40,000 death mark on January 10.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called the latest mortality data « terrible. »
“They are not just numbers. They are people who died alone … they are families who mourn them, « he said, adding that the daily number of infections was decreasing and that there were fewer patients in intensive care units than during Christmas.
In Europe, Great Britain, Italy, France and Spain, all of them nations with less population, have more deaths from the coronavirus.
The director of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, said this week that the explanation for the high number of fatalities is « relatively simple but relatively depressing. »
« This increase is simply linked to the fact that the number of cases increased too much, » he said.
The new infections reached their peak in December. On Friday, the Institute reported 17,862 new positives, down from 22,368 a week ago, for a total count of more than 2.1 million COVID-19 patients.
The number of new cases per 100,000 residents in the last seven days remained at 115.3, after touching 200 a month ago. However, the figure is still well above the government’s maximum target of 50.
The quarantine decreed in Germany was extended this week until February 14 amid concerns about the possible impact of coronavirus mutations like the one first detected in Britain. Authorities are trying to encourage more people to work from home to reduce the number of public transport users.
Merkel said everyone in Germany will have a chance to get vaccinated before the end of the summer, despite frustration over the slow start of the immunization campaign. As of Wednesday, 1.32 million people had received the first dose of the vaccine.