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Germany sees health system 'at breaking point' without tougher curbs - Bild

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany’s health system could hit breaking point if coronavirus infections continue to spiral, after bringing forward high-level talks to decide on new restrictions to break the second wave of the pandemic.

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Mass-selling daily Bild reported that Merkel told party colleagues that the number of new cases is doubling every seven to eight days, while the number of occupied intensive care beds is doubling every 10 days.

“It just needs to double again four more times and the system will be at a breaking point,” Bild quoted Merkel as saying, adding that she wanted to reduce the number of contacts people had.

On Monday, Bild reported that Merkel was planning a “lockdown light” which would mainly focus on closing bars and restaurants as well as restrictions on public events.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said Germany was likely to reach 20,000 new infections a day by the end of the week. “We are dealing with exponential growth. In Germany the number of new infections is rising by 70-75% compared to the week before,” he said.

Germany, widely praised for keeping its infection rate well below other major powers in the initial phase of the crisis, now faces a faster than expected surge in cases, spurring Merkel to bring forward to Wednesday talks with state leaders on additional restrictions.

Merkel said at the end of September there could be 19,200 coronavirus cases per day in Germany by Christmas, which was seen as 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 of 14,714 reported on Saturday.

Armin Laschet, the premier of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, said November would be a decisive month. One priority at Wednesday’s talks would be discussing how to drastically reduce social contact.

“We need an effective brake on corona, not something half- hearted,” he told reporters.

Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder said he anticipated difficult talks and called for decisive national measures to avoid prolonging economic pain and damaging mental health over the winter. He said the priority would be to keep schools and kindergartens open for as long as possible.

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.

Additional reporting by Michael Nienaber and Thomas Seythal; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Giles Elgood