Germany’s Virus Deaths Surpass 50,000 Since Pandemic Began

Germany’s coronavirus fatalities passed 50,000, underscoring the urgency facing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to check the spread of the disease and guard against new mutations.

In Europe’s largest economy, 1,013 people died from Covid-19 in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, taking the total number of deaths to 50,010, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Pandemic-related fatalities have doubled in the past month.

Merkel will address Germany’s fight against the disease at a news conference later on Thursday, just two days after struggling to reach common ground with state leaders. The chancellor pushed for tougher curbs, but some state leaders resisted, wary of voter dissatisfaction ahead of regional and national elections in the coming months.

Germany’s Virus Deaths Surpass 50,000 Since Pandemic Began

While infections have declined in recent days and the contagion rate is at the lowest level since the beginning of November, it remains more than double a government target. Authorities are concerned that fast-spreading strains could spark a surge like in Britain and Ireland. Merkel this week raised the prospect of reintroducing controls on Germany’s borders unless European neighbors synchronize measures to contain mutations.

Helge Braun, Merkel’s chief of staff, was cautiously optimistic in a television interview on Thursday. There is “a very big chance” that Germany’s seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people could fall below a government target of 50 in the next three to four weeks, from 119 now, as long as faster-spreading variants don’t take hold, Braun told ARD.

“That would then allow us to think about easing” virus restrictions, Braun said. “Although everyone is tired of the coronavirus, we have to remain very resolute in coming weeks and then we have a fantastic chance that things will improve step by step and we will beat the virus.”

Lockdown measures -- including closing non-essential stores and restricting movement in hard-hit areas -- were extended Tuesday to Feb. 14. Authorities also agreed to make medical face masks obligatory in stores and on public transport, while companies will be required to allow employees to work from home where possible.

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