Germany, which had virus under control, sees a jump in cases

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Passengers wear face masks as they leave a train in the central train station in Frankfurt, Germany, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

BERLIN – Germany is seeing a sharp jump in new coronavirus infections, raising fears the pandemic is picking up pace in a country that so far has coped better than many of its European neighbors.

The country's disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, on Thursday reported 4,058 new infections and 16 deaths over the past 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 310,144 since the start of the outbreak, with 9,578 deaths. That death toll is one-fourth of Britain's and one-third of the confirmed virus toll in Italy.

“I'm very concerned about this,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said of the latest numbers at a news conference in Berlin, which has become one of the infection hotspots.

He urged Germans to respect social distancing and hygiene measures to avoid reaching a point “where we lose control.”

The head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar H. Wieler, echoed Spahn's concerns and warned that the daily number of new cases could rise above 10,000, as they have in several other European countries lately.

Wieler called it the “prevention paradox” that complacency had grown precisely because measures taken by authorities and the public since March had led to a comparatively low death rate.

Over the past month the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has doubled to about 450. While this is still far below the number receiving ICU treatment in April, officials noted that the figure is likely to rise as more older people become infected again.

Germany currently has 8,500 free intensive care beds and a further 12,000 that can be mobilized within seven days, should the number of serious cases rise suddenly, said Andreas Gassen, who heads the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians.