On Wednesday, outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel announced that Germany is in the grip of a ‘dramatic’ fourth COVID-19 wave.
While the nation battles rising cases, Merkel called for a push to distribute booster shots faster and appealed to those sceptical of vaccination to change their minds.
"It is not too late to opt for a first vaccine shot," she told a congress of German city mayors. "Everyone who gets vaccinated protects himself and others. And if enough people get vaccinated that is the way out of the pandemic."
Here’s a look at what’s happening in Germany and the causes contributing to the rise in infections.
Germany’s fourth wave
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s public health body, on Wednesday reported 52,826 new COVID-19 cases and 29 more deaths.
To date, Germany has recorded 5.1 million cases and almost 100,000 fatalities from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Lothar Wieler of Germany's RKI institute was quoted as telling BBC: "If we don't take counter-measures now, this fourth wave will bring yet more suffering."
Seeing the rise in cases, several cities and states have imposed COVID-19 measures, including the public having to show its COVID passes in order to access bars, restaurants, and other public venues like movie theaters or museums.
Furthermore, some of the traditional Christmas markets, which are huge income generators, have already been cancelled while others mull over their decisions.
For instance, Munich's iconic Christmas market has been cancelled for a second year in a row, owing to the rise in COVID-19 cases.
Mayor Dieter Reiter while making the announcement said, "The dramatic situation in our clinics and the exponentially increasing infection figures leave me no other choice: The Munich Christmas Market can unfortunately not take place this year."
Reuters reported that the Hamburg market will make it compulsory for patrons to carry their COVID pass in order to be allowed in.
Reasons for fourth wave
One of the main reasons for the rise in COVID-19 numbers in the country, as well as Europe, is the slow vaccination drive and the hesitancy against the jabs.
As of 11 November, only 69.8 percent of the population in Germany has received one shot against the virus and 67.3 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
A report in The Economist said that Germany, Austria and Switzerland have the highest shares of unvaccinated people in western Europe. A survey by Erfurt University showed that 41 percent of people simply considered vaccination 'unnecessary'.
Another reason is that many members of the public don’t want to adhere to pandemic curbs. Elaborating on the same, Markus Söder, the Bavarian prime minister said that a large proportion of the population of Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg belonged to Querdenker — members of a protest movement that form the loudest voice against the government’s pandemic curbs.
A Financial Times report added that anti-vaccine sentiments intersected with populism and anti-establishment politics. A Forsa poll conducted on behalf of the German health ministry found that half of unvaccinated respondents had voted for the rightwing populist AfD in the recent federal election.
Interestingly, the far-right party has been campaigning against coronavirus measures, such as masking and vaccinating.
Tightening up the rules
Seeing the significant rise in cases, the government in Germany is negotiating on a series of public health measures.
• Stricter anti-virus workplace rules
• Penalties for forging vaccine passports or test certificates to allow up to five years in prison for professional gangs selling such fakes
• Employees would also get the right to work from home again
Moreover, Germany is also providing free testing.
The state of Saxony where 85 percent of ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients has ruled that only people who can prove they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed entry in non-essential shops. Meaning, only they will be allowed at events including football matches and Christmas markets.
North Rhine Westphalia is also following Saxony’s example and will introduce these tough measures.
As these measures come into play, all Germans can do is hope and pray that they are not badly affected by the virus.
With inputs from agencies