Merkel seeks limited lockdown as German virus cases surge

International

A pedestrian walks over a reminder to wear face masks sprayed on the sidewalk at the Karl-Marx-Strasse at the district Neukoelln in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Karl-Marx-Strasse is one of the streets in the German capital where face masks are mandatory to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN (AP) — Alarmed by the steady rise in new coronavirus cases, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pressing governors of the country’s 16 states to agree to a partial lockdown Wednesday that could include further restrictions on public gatherings and the closure of bars and restaurants.

Germany’s disease control agency said a record 14,964 new cases were recorded across the country in the past 24 hours, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to 449,275. Germany also saw a further 27 COVID-related deaths, raising its overall death toll to 10,098, the Robert Koch Institute said.

Merkel has repeatedly urged Germans over the past two weeks to reduce their social contacts in a bid to curb the spread of the virus — so far with little success.

Owners of restaurants and bars planned to stage a protest demanding more government support if their establishments are forced to close down again.

The rally at Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate was backed by musicians who warn that the lockdown will badly hurt Germany’s already ailing hospitality and entertainment industry.

“It’s not enough if we get loans because most event organizers and musicians don’t have any kind of income and then they even end up having to repay the loans,” Bernhard Brink, a singer-songwriter, told news channel n-tv.

“We have to get money now in order to survive,” he added. “There are a lot of people out there who have huge problems right now.”

Officials say Germany, which has coped with the outbreak better than many of its neighboring European countries, is beginning to lose control of the situation, with local health authorities unable to trace contacts of those infected and some hospitals refusing to take in new patients.

Germany’s health minister said that now is the time to flatten the curve of infections again.

“Once the intensive care wards are full, it’s too late,” Jens Spahn, told SWR public radio.

Spahn, who is isolating at home after contracting COVID-19 himself, said it was important to keep schools and child daycare centers open to ensure parents can go to work.

Still, schools across the country have been preparing to shift at least some of their teaching online, in anticipation of possible partial closures.

The parliamentary caucus leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats offered some hope that the measures might bring about the desired result, if done right.

“If we do everything right in November then there’s a chance that we can celebrate Christmas in a reasonable way,” Ralph Brinkhaus told n-tv.

___

Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.