By FRANK JORDANS
BERLIN (AP) — The German air force will begin assisting the transfer of intensive care patients Friday as the government warned that the situation in the country is more serious than at any point in the pandemic.
Citing the sharp rise in cases, Health Minister Jens Spahn said contacts between people need to be sharply reduced to curb the spread of the virus.
“The situation is dramatically serious, more serious than it’s been at any point in the pandemic,” he told reporters in Berlin.
Spahn said Germany was having to organize large-scale transfers of patients within the country for the first time since the outbreak began in early 2020.
German news agency dpa reported that a Luftwaffe A310 medevac plane will fly seriously ill patients from the southern town of Memmingen to North Rhine-Westphalia state Friday afternoon.
Hospitals in southern and eastern regions of Germany have warned they are running out of intensive care beds because of the large number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients.
The country’s disease control agency said 76,414 newly confirmed cases were reported in the past 24 hours. The Robert Koch Institute, a government agency, said Germany also had 357 new deaths from COVID-19, taking the total since the start of the outbreak to 100,476.
Responding to a newly discovered variant that’s been spreading in South Africa, Spahn said airlines coming from there would only be able to transport German citizens. Travelers will need to go into quarantine for 14 days whether they are vaccinated or not, he said.
“The last thing we need is to bring in a new variant that will cause even more problems,” he said.
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