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Merkel: Second COVID-19 wave will likely 'be more severe' than first

Merkel: Second COVID-19 wave will likely 'be more severe' than first
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that the second wave of the coronavirus sweeping her nation will likely "be more severe" than the first.

Although new infections are down slightly weeks after German officials reimposed lockdown measures, the country also recorded 261 deaths, its highest single-day total since April.

"As it was the case with the Spanish flu, we now also have to expect that the second wave will be more severe," Merkel told economic advisers during a video conference Wednesday, according to Reuters.

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"We are definitely seeing signs of change, but we still cannot talk of a trend reversal," German Health Minister Jens Spahn told German broadcaster RTL, adding that "the numbers are rising but not as strongly.”

“This is encouraging but it is not enough,” he added.

New daily infections stayed below 20,000 for four consecutive days in Germany, but Spahn said that both deaths and intensive care unit occupancy were up.

German officials closed schools and day cares during their initial lockdown in the spring but have kept them open during the second to allow parents to return to work, according to Reuters.

Heinz-Peter Meidinger, the head of the country’s teachers union, said the virus has continued to spread with these facilities open and that the government needs to devote more time to exploring partial closures.

"We need concepts to keep schools partially open, for example by keeping older pupils at home,” he said. “Otherwise the situation will spiral out of control."

Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for the German government, said local and national government officials are “very determined to avoid extensive school closures,” including the partial shutdowns floated by the union.

Germany was hailed for its handling of the pandemic during the initial wave in spring, but a second wave has since emerged through most of Europe. The country has reported more than 715,000 cases and just under 12,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.