BERLIN - The number of new coronavirus infections in Germany is likely to reach 20,000 a day by the end of the week, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Tuesday, as authorities readied new curbs to break the second wave of the pandemic.
Germany, widely praised for its initial response to the crisis, is contending with a faster upswing in cases than expected, prompting Chancellor Angela Merkel to bring forward to Wednesday talks with state leaders on additional curbs.
"We are dealing with exponential growth," Altmaier said. "In Germany the number of new infections is rising by 70-75% compared to the week before."
Merkel said at the end of September there could be 19,200 coronavirus cases per day by Christmas, which was considered a pessimistic scenario at the time. On Tuesday, the number of cases rose by 11,409. That compares with 6,868 cases a week ago and with the daily record 14,714 reported on Saturday.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the increase in new infections was "very worrying," and authorities had to quickly implement "targeted, temporary and focused" measures as uniformly across Germany as possible.
"So far, our country has fared quite well during the coronavirus pandemic and it will be decided in the coming weeks whether it will stay that way. It's in our hands," Scholz said.
Bavarian premier Markus Soeder said he expected difficult talks and pleaded for decisive national measures to avoid prolonging economic pain and damaging mental health over the winter.
"Better faster and stricter than delayed and extended," he said after a state cabinet meeting, adding the priority would be to keep schools and kindergartens open for as long as possible.
Daily Bild said Merkel was planning a "lockdown light" which would mainly focus on the closure of bars and restaurants as well as restrictions on public events.
Altmaier said rising infections across Europe and corresponding curbs on daily life would make it harder for economic growth to rebound as quickly as previously hoped.
But he did not expect supply chains to be disrupted like they were during the first wave of the virus in spring.