Merkel urges Germans to stay home 'whenever possible' as cases peak
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the population to stay at home "whenever possible" on Saturday as the country's disease control body announced yet another record increase in the number of new coronavirus infections.
"We have to do everything we can now to ensure that the virus does not spread uncontrollably - every day counts," Merkel said in her weekly podcast published on Saturday.
"I ask you to refrain from any trip that is not really necessary, any celebration that is not really necessary. Please stay at home - wherever you are, whenever possible," she said.
Germany is in a "very serious phase" of the pandemic, Merkel said, adding that "the number of new infections is increasing by leaps and bounds every day."
"The comparatively relaxed summer is over; now we are facing difficult months. How winter will be, how our Christmas will be, will be decided in the coming days and weeks. We all decide that through our actions."
Germany recorded 7,830 coronavirus infections in the last 24-hour period, marking a new record as the highest daily figure since the pandemic began, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
The number of cases was nearly 500 higher than on Friday, when 7,334 new infections were reported, the previous record.
Germany's prior infection peak of around 6,300 daily cases was in late March, but it is likely there were significantly more cases at the time as testing capacity has been greatly expanded since then.
According to the RKI, at least 356,387 people in Germany have been infected with the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, while 9,767 have died, 33 more than the previous day.
The federal government wants to recruit many more helpers to support local authorities in tracing infection chains. "The need is enormous, a five-digit number of helpers is needed," Helge Braun, Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff told the Rheinische Post newspaper in comments published Saturday.
In addition to the Bundeswehr contingent of up to 15,000 soldiers, the politician also said he was looking into whether Berlin can "mobilize additional personnel reserves in the federal government and subordinate authorities."
He also expressed the hope that a large number of students could be recruited to follow up contacts.
Berlin, where the number of cases has risen to 83.2 per 100,000 inhabitants over the course of a week, authorities are planning to impose new, much tougher hygiene rules.
A report in the Tagesspiegel newspaper said that Berlin authorities were considering whether to impose a mask rule for large outdoor gatherings and limit the number of people socializing in one group outdoors to five.