Germany recorded 465 deaths over the past 24 hours, the Robert Koch Institute for disease control said, raising the toll since the start of the pandemic to 40,343. More than 1.9 million people have been infected so far, with almost 17,000 new cases added since Saturday.
In her weekly video message on Saturday, Merkel said the full impact of socialising over the Christmas and New Year’s period was yet to show up in the statistics.
She warned Germans that “these next winter weeks will be the hardest phase of the pandemic” so far, with many doctors and medical staff working at their limits.
Germany fared better than many other European countries during the first Covid-19 wave in the spring but it has been hit hard by the second wave.
The nation of 83 million people, the bloc’s most populous, has imposed another round of restrictions to limit social contacts and help hospitals cope with a surge in patients.
More than 5,000 Covid-19 patients are currently in intensive care nationwide, with over 80 percent of intensive care beds occupied. Germany has closed schools and non-essential shops, culture and leisure facilities until at least January 31 in hope of slowing the outbreak.
Like other EU nations, it started vaccinating citizens against Covid-19 in late December using the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. More than half a million people have received the jab so far.