Record daily German COVID-19 deaths spark Merkel 'mega-lockdown' plan: Bild  01/14/2021 18:57:59 

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany recorded a new record number of deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday, prompting calls for an even tighter lockdown after the country emerged relatively unscathed in 2020.

Chancellor Angela Merkel wanted a mega-lockdown, mass-selling newspaper Bild reported, shutting down the country almost completely for fear of the fast-spreading variant of the virus first detected in Britain.

She was considering measures including shutting down both local and long-distance public transport, though such steps had not yet been decided, Bild said. However, state officials were resisting tighter measures, state sources told Reuters.

At a meeting of top officials from her party on Thursday, Merkel called for very fast action against the spread of virus mutations, participants told Reuters. She also wanted to bring forward a meeting with regional leaders planned for Jan. 25.

While Germanys total deaths per capita since the pandemicbegan remain far lower than the United States, its daily percapita mortality since mid-December has often exceeded that ofthat country.

Germanys daily death toll currently equates to about 15deaths per million people, versus a U.S. toll of 13 deaths per million.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 25,164 newcoronavirus cases and 1,244 fatalities, bringing Germanys totaldeath toll since the start of the pandemic to 43,881.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, ruling parties in the eastern state of Thuringia said they were postponing a regional election scheduled for April 25 until Sept. 26, the same day as this years federal election.

Germany initially managed the pandemic better than itsneighbours with a strict lockdown last spring, but it has seen asharp rise in cases and deaths in recent months, with the RKIsaying people were not taking the virus seriously enough.

RKI president Lothar Wieler said on Thursday restrictionswere not being implemented as consistently as they were duringthe first wave and said more people should work from home,adding that the current lockdown needed to be tightened further.

Germany introduced a partial lockdown in November that keptshops and schools open, but it tightened the rules inmid-December, closing non-essential stores, and children havenot returned to classrooms since the Christmas holidays.

Hospitals in 10 out of Germanys 16 states were facingbottlenecks as 85% of intensive care unit bedswere occupied by coronavirus patients, Wieler said.

So far only about 1% of the German population has beenvaccinated, or 842,455 people, the RKI reported.

Germany has so far recorded 16 cases of people with thefast-spreading variant of the virus first detected in Britain and four with the variant from South Africa, Wieler said, although he admitted gene sequencing of samples was not being done broadly.

Wieler urged people who were offered a COVID-19 vaccinationto accept it.

At the end of the year we will have this pandemic undercontrol, Wieler said.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle and Thomas EscrittWriting by Caroline Copley, Emma Thomasson and Paul CarrelEditing by Riham Alkousaa, Angus MacSwan, William Maclean and Nick Macfie

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