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Some hospitals are already facing an “acute overload” that has made it necessary to transfer Covid patients abroad, said Gernot Marx, head of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine.

Germany last week announced tougher Covid curbs, including requiring people to prove they are vaccinated, cured or have recently tested negative for the virus before they can travel on public transport or go into the workplace.

Several of the worst-hit areas have gone further and ordered new shutdowns.

The spike has ignited a fierce debate in Germany about whether to follow Austria’s example and make vaccination mandatory for all citizens.

Incoming chancellor Olaf Scholz has voiced support for mandatory jabs and said his new government will invest one billion euros in bonuses for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Germany’s fourth virus wave has in part been blamed on its relatively low vaccination rate of about 69 per cent, compared to other European countries such as France, where it is 75 per cent.

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