With winter looming, German health officials and experts have raised concerns about a new surge of coronavirus cases. Infections in Germany — about 12,775 daily on average — have increased by 57 percent in the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Deaths on average in the same period have increased by 11 percent.
The surge comes as many European countries slowly lifted lockdowns this summer after months of restrictions driven by variants of the virus.
A national state of emergency is currently in place in Germany — which allows the government to unilaterally impose restrictions on states — but it is set to expire on Nov. 25. The order can be extended by a parliamentary vote, and some state officials are advocating that lawmakers do so.
Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, though, noted the country’s high vaccination rate and said that the emergency order could be lifted while other rules are put in place, like mask mandates and proof of vaccination. About 70 percent of the population has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Pandemic restrictions in Germany are set individually by the country’s 16 states, and in general, masks are required on public transportation and in stores. Since August, visitors to Germany have had to show proof of vaccination, recovery from infection or a recent negative test for entry to indoor public spaces, like restaurants, salons and gyms. Clubs in Berlin, famed for its hedonistic nightlife, reopened last month for the first time in over a year.
Cases are also resurging in Britain, where the government lifted virtually all restrictions in July, arguing that a rapid vaccination rollout had helped mitigate rates of hospitalizations and deaths. In June, the country reported as few as 2,000 cases a day, but last week, it reported an average of 47,209 new cases a day, a 30 percent increase over the average two weeks ago.
The government has rejected calls for an immediate reintroduction of some coronavirus restrictions, but it has also said that rules could be put back in place if a vaccine booster program did little to stop the spread. Health experts are cautioning that while vaccines do help prevent serious illness, they alone will not be enough to stop the upward trajectory of infection rates.
“Relying on the vaccine program to kind of take care of the problem is not going be a solution, I’m afraid,” Adam Finn, a member of a government vaccination committee, said to the BBC on Sunday. “It is really time that everyone got the message that they can’t just go back to normal if they want to avoid further restrictions later in the year.”