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COVID-19: Merkel begs Germans to get vaccinated as infections continue to soar

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By Josephine Joly  with AP
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People wait in a long line to be vaccinated against the coronavirus during a vaccination campaign of the DRK, German Red Cross, in front of the town hall in Pirna, Germany.
People wait in a long line to be vaccinated against the coronavirus during a vaccination campaign of the DRK, German Red Cross, in front of the town hall in Pirna, Germany.   -   Copyright  AP - Robert Michael / © dpa-Zentralbild

Soaring rates of new coronavirus infections are once again pushing medical services to the brink in Germany, as the seven-day incidence rate surpassed 300 for the first time since the pandemic began.

The number of new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days hit 303, according to the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

The number of deaths increased by 43, bringing Germany's total in the pandemic so far to 97,720.

Intensive care units all over the country are struggling with the number of COVID-19 patients.

In Munich, one of the city's largest hospitals says it currently has nine patients in intensive care, all of whom are unvaccinated.

While the infection rate isn't yet as high as in some other European countries, its relentless rise in Germany has set off alarm bells.

Outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel urged all unvaccinated Germans to get their shots as quickly as possible on Saturday.

"Now it (the vaccine) is here, and all we have to do is grab it. Grab it fast. I beg you, join in and try to convince relatives and friends, too. If we stand together, if we think about protecting ourselves and caring for others, we can save our country a lot this winter," she said.

Still, the chancellor warned that "these are very difficult weeks ahead of us".

Merkel plans to meet with the country's 16 state governors to coordinate nationwide measures.

She expressed her concern about the high number of intensive care patients and rising death numbers - especially in regions with low vaccination rates.

"The number of new daily coronavirus infections is currently higher than ever before in the pandemic. The number of people who need to be treated in an intensive care unit because of COVID-19 is also rising steeply. And, terribly, we also have to mourn many fatalities again day after day," she added.

Germany has struggled to bring new momentum to its vaccination campaign lately, with only 67.5% of its population fully vaccinated.

Children under the age of 12, who cannot yet get vaccinated in Germany, are among the worst-hit group.

The highly contagious delta variant has run rampant through the unvaccinated population as the temperature drops and people stay indoors.