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Germany passes 50,000 coronavirus deaths as infections decline
Germany's coronavirus death toll on Friday surpassed 50,000 even as the number of new daily infections in the country is dropping.
The Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease control center, recorded an additional 859 deaths on Friday, bringing the total number of fatalities due to COVID-19 to 50,642, according to The Associated Press.
As of late Friday morning, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University indicated that Germany has now had 51,134 coronavirus deaths, with a total of more than 2.1 million people infected.
While Germany was more successful than other countries at containing the virus in the early months of the pandemic, daily death tolls have reached as high as 1,000 in recent months, hitting a total of 40,000 on Jan. 10.
The AP reported that Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, said the explanation for the increased number in coronavirus deaths is "relatively simple but relatively depressing."
"The increase is simply linked to the fact that the case numbers went up so much," he added.
Wieler added that there are currently more than 900 coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes in the country, as well as a larger number of cases among Germans over the age of 80.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced Friday that he plans on leaving a light in one of his windows at his Bellevue palace in Berlin every evening starting Friday to commemorate the lives lost to COVID-19.
Steinmeier said the lights are a sign that "the dead in the corona pandemic are not just statistics for us."
"Even if we don't know their names and families, we know that every figure stands for a loved one whom we miss infinitely," he added.
Germany began its coronavirus vaccination campaign late last month, beginning with elderly populations and health care workers taking care of vulnerable groups.
However, while German Health Minister Jens Spahn initially had a target of 300,000 inoculations per day for the country, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed a daily average of approximately 86,000 as of Wednesday.
In total, more than 1.3 million people in Germany have been vaccinated since late December.
Stefan H.E. Kaufmann, founding director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, told CNBC Tuesday that Germany has faced multiple challenges in administering the vaccine.
"Number one priority are currently the elderly and people with severe pre-disposing diseases, notably in nursery homes," he explained. "This process is ethically fine, but it is very time consuming."
He added, "it also includes health care workers and medical staff at nursing homes and hospitals. Apparently some of the nursing home staff is hesitant with respect to vaccination."