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Germany wrestles with second virus wave as cases reach record

BERLIN (Reuters) - Warnings mounted in Germany that it was up to the citizens of Europe’s biggest economy to do their part to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as daily new infections reached a record on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: People with and without protective face masks are pictured at Wilmersdorfer Strasse shopping street, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Berlin, Germany, October 12, 2020. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File photo

“There can be no question anymore now that this is the start of a very big second wave,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, told public broadcaster ARD.

“At the start of this second wave it is up to us to stop the infections. The longer we wait and the less decisive we are, the more it will impact not only our health but also our economy,” he added.

By European standards, Germany has experienced relatively low infection and death rates so far during the pandemic, but new daily cases have jumped in recent weeks.

They have now reached a record of 6,638, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 341,223, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday.

The previous record daily increase was 6,294 on March 28, according to RKI data.

Germany’s states agreed late on Wednesday to extend measures against the spread of the coronavirus to larger parts of the country as new cases soared, but Merkel warned even tougher steps may be needed.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned that people’s behaviour in the coming days would determine whether they will be able to spend Christmas with their families this year.

“It’s important to understand that we are not powerless against this virus. We can do something, we all can make a difference every day,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio on Thursday.

“We can be the spoilsport for the virus if we are careful with one another and keep the number of new infections to a level we can handle.”

Thursday’s tally showed the reported death toll rose by 33 to 9,710.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Caroline Copley; editing by Richard Pullin