Official figures released Thursday show Germany has become the latest country to surpass 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Germany’s disease control agency said it recorded 351 additional deaths in connection with the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, taking the total toll to 100,119. In Europe, Germany is the fifth country to pass that mark, after Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy, and France, the AP reports. The Robert Koch Institute, a federal agency that collects data from some 400 regional health offices, said Germany also set a record for daily confirmed cases—75,961 in a 24-hour period.
The surge in cases prompted Germany's government-in-waiting on Wednesday to announce the creation of a new permanent expert group to advise officials on how to tackle the pandemic. While the number of daily infections is higher than that seen during the last winter surge, vaccinations have reduced the likelihood of serious illness and there are currently fewer daily deaths per confirmed case. Still, hospitals have warned that intensive care beds are running out, with almost 4,000 already occupied by COVID-19 patients. Some hospitals in the country’s south and east have begun transferring patients to other regions.
Officials say 68.1% of Germany's 83 million inhabitants are fully vaccinated, far below the minimum level of 75% the government has aimed for. Center-left leader Olaf Scholz, who is poised to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor next month, called Wednesday for mandatory vaccinations in nursing homes that care for particularly vulnerable people—and left open the possibility of extending the measure to others. "Vaccinations are the way out of this pandemic," Scholz said. Last week, Austria said vaccinations will be mandatory nationwide as of Feb. 1 next year. (Slovakia has now entered a two-week lockdown.)