Germany is heading to a major new nationwide lockdown to stop the rapid spread of the Corona virus after health experts said that waiting until after Christmas to calm the country could cost tens of thousands of lives and burden hospitals.

The country recorded nearly 23,000 new cases Wednesday morning, and 598 deaths, both rates higher than at any time since the start of the epidemic.

Prominent politicians urged the government to take immediate action to incite what some media described as “a sudden closure.”

“We have to act as soon as possible,” said Marcus Söder, the leader of the southern state of Bavaria, where cases have risen sharply in the past few days, on Friday morning. He said that every day counts, Twitter: “Why hesitate, we know it is necessary? That is why we need to push everything forward and act decisively. We need to finish everything before Christmas.”

He called for a national approach, including curfews, closing unnecessary stores, and extending school and kindergarten holidays.

On November 2, I entered the country ‘Soft closing’As the rules tightened on gatherings, bars and restaurants, shops and schools remained open.

Quick guide

Covid on Christmas: How do the rules differ across Europe?

Turns out

France It reopened nonessential stores this month, allowing Christmas shopping to begin. But the slight increase in new infections since then means that while travel is permitted from December 15th, a nationwide curfew will start from 8 PM to 7 AM after that will be lifted on December 24, but not on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. New. Bars and restaurants will not reopen until January, and private gatherings will be restricted to six adults.

Germany The “light lockdown” has been extended until early January, but amid a record high in injuries and deaths, it may have to stop further before Christmas – perhaps allowing people to leave their homes just for fundamental reasons and store closures from December 21. Private meetings are currently limited to five meetings, which should be increased to 10 from December 23 to January 1, but this may change.

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AustriaStrict closure ends this month. The country is implementing a mass program of 10 million tests over the next two weeks with the goal of allowing more families to be reunited during the holiday period. Christmas markets are canceled.

Italy Inter-regional travel ban from December 20 to January 6, with the exception of work, health or emergency reasons, and Italians may not leave their cities on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day. Midnight Mass will be offered on December 24 for worshipers to return to their homes before the curfew in the country from 10pm to 5am, and people coming from European Union countries must submit a negative test.

Spain People pleaded to be responsible but that they would allow movement between regions for “family reasons” between December 23 and January 6. The regional curfew, which runs from 10 pm to midnight, will be delayed to 1.30 am on December 24 and 31, when the maximum for gatherings will be raised from 6 to 10, a measure that will also apply on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. .

Authorities in Netherlands He said current restrictions will not be eased over Christmas and may be strengthened if infections rise. The number of guests for Christmas dinner will be limited to three (except for under 13 years old); Cafes, bars and restaurants will remain closed except for fast food; Non-essential stores must close at 8 PM and non-essential travel is not recommended.

Belgium He said families might only have close contact with one extra person over the Christmas period, although people who live alone will be allowed to meet two more people. Fireworks will be banned on New Year’s Eve to limit gatherings.

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Poland People will only be allowed to spend Christmas with their immediate family, with no more than five guests being invited to each family until at least December 27th and travel is banned outside of their home towns.

John Henley Europe Correspondent

The Germans had expected restrictions to be eased from December 23, which was supposed to allow private gatherings of up to 10 people – though not counting children under the age of 14 – from two different families, until January 1.

People were discouraged from making unnecessary trips but not prevented from traveling. They were urged to quarantine for a week before any celebrations, especially those involving the elderly.

But it is now widely expected that the rules will be broken this weekend.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said: “It is clear that we need additional measures, not sooner rather than later. We cannot allow this to be a festival of the virus. The virus does not care whether we have bought Christmas gifts or not.”

He appealed to the Germans to show solidarity with one another, saying, “We” must be more important than “me,” and that means making a sacrifice. “

The federal government and leaders of the 16 states are due to meet on Sunday to decide on the next set of emergency measures. But many policymakers were urging the government to act more quickly.

“It is irresponsible to wait another day,” said Daniel Gunther, president of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. He said Germany had an “incredibly difficult time until Easter”.

Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller said on Thursday that he wants the capital to close its stores and coordinate with neighboring Brandenburg, but the decision will not be made until Tuesday.

In a touching speech to the state parliament, he asked, “How many deaths is worth a candlelit dinner?… How many deaths is the shopping spree worth?” As he sought support for the pre-Christmas lockdown, which he said was necessary to save lives.

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Earlier, Home Secretary Horst Seehofer said it would be a mistake to wait until after Christmas to tighten restrictions. “The only opportunity for us to control the situation again is the closure, which begins immediately,” he told the Der Spiegel newspaper. Doing otherwise, he added, would leave Germany to deal with a massive spike in cases over months.

Seehofer said he was “angry” that Germany had “abandoned the advantage it had fought for” early in the epidemic, not blaming the lack of discipline on the part of citizens, but “insufficient measures taken”.

On Wednesday, the chancellor, Angela Merkel made an unusually expressive appealHer voice is broken as she urged people to stay home over Christmas, or risk never seeing their grandparents again.

Merkel has repeatedly called for a national approach to dealing with the Coronavirus, but most decisions were made on the basis of the country, and seemed ad hoc and confusing.

Bavaria introduced tougher rules on Wednesday including a nightly curfew at hotspots and a ban on alcohol sales in inland cities.

The state of Baden-Württemberg has imposed a curfew that begins on Saturday, with people allowed out for work or for essential visits to stores or the doctor.

From Monday in Saxony, non-essential schools, kindergartens and stores will be closed. Saxon politicians urged not to travel to neighboring Brandenburg, as the shops remain open.

The German Surgeons Association has warned of the consequences of overburdened hospitals for patients not infected with the Coronavirus. There are currently 4,000 intensive care beds in Germany occupied with Covid-19 cases, which is one-third more than the epidemic’s peak during the first wave.

“The situation in the hospitals is getting tense,” Professor Thomas Schmitz-Rexen, Vice President of the German Society of Surgeons, told Deutschland Funk.