Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday

Germany approved new measures Thursday to rein in record coronavirus infections as Chancellor Angela Merkel called the pandemic situation in the country "very serious" and said it was "high time" to contain the spread of the virus.

Germany heading 'toward a serious emergency' as COVID-19 cases rise, health official says

Health workers tend to a patient on the COVID-19 intensive care unit at University Hospital Leipzig on Thursday. Hospitals in Germany are coping with a high influx of patients as the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is sending infection rates to new highs. (Jens Schlueter/Getty Images)

The latest:

Germany approved new measures Thursday to rein in record coronavirus infections as Chancellor Angela Merkel called the pandemic situation in the country "very serious" and said it was "high time" to contain the spread of the virus.

"The situation is highly dramatic and it will be very important now that action is taken quickly, that action is taken consistently, that better control is taken," Merkel told reporters Thursday night in Berlin. She had earlier held a video conference with Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Germany's 16 state governors to co-ordinate the country's response to a surge in coronavirus cases.

Merkel said participants in the meeting had agreed that tightening of measures against the virus would in the future be linked to the number of hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. The states are also considering mandatory vaccinations for some professional groups such as medical staff and nursing home employees.

A woman receives the third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Nuremberg, Germany, on Thursday. (Lukas Barth/Reuters)

Earlier on Thursday, lawmakers in the Bundestag passed legislation to rein in the virus with votes from the centre-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties are currently negotiating to form a new government.

The new measures include requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces; a similar rule will apply to public transport. The measures need to be approved by Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, which could happen Friday.

The centre-right Christian Democrats, under Merkel, the outgoing chancellor, had wanted to extend existing rules that expire this month and which have served as the basis for numerous national and statewide restrictions since March 2020. In the future, Germany's 16 states will only be able to impose restrictions on cultural and sports events if their regional assemblies approve the measure.

Merkel's party criticized the new rules, saying they would weaken the instruments at authorities' disposal at a time when infections are soaring again.

Germany's disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 65,371 new daily infections, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks. Total deaths are nearing 100,000, with 264 reported on Wednesday alone.

"We are currently heading toward a serious emergency," institute director Lothar Wieler said during an online debate late Wednesday. "We are going to have a really terrible Christmas if we don't take countermeasures now."

- From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:35 p.m. ET

What's happening across Canada

WATCH | Ottawa to drop molecular test requirement for short foreign trips, sources say: 

Ottawa to drop PCR test requirement for short foreign trips: sources

1 year ago
Duration 1:55
Sources have told CBC News that the federal government will announce that fully vaccinated Canadians won’t need to produce a negative PCR test on their return if they’ve been out of the country for 72 hours or less.

What's happening around the world

Medics wearing special protective suits treat a patient with the novel coronavirus at an intensive care unit of a hospital in Kalach-on-Don, Russia, over the weekend. (Alexander Kulikov/The Associated Press)

As of Thursday evening, more than 255.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.1 million.

In Europe, coronavirus deaths in Russia have hit record highs for the second straight day. Russia's state coronavirus task force reported Thursday that 1,251 people died of COVID-19 since the day before. The previous record of 1,247 deaths was recorded Wednesday.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan's new stimulus package will include record spending of about $488 billion US due to huge payouts to cushion COVID-19's economic blow, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

South Korea reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic as hundreds of thousands of masked students flocked to schools on Thursday for the country's highly competitive college entrance exam amid growing concerns about the delta-driven spread.

About 509,000 students were taking the one-day exam at 1,395 sites across the nation, including hospitals and shelters.

The annual exam is crucial in the education-obsessed country, where careers, social standings and even marriage prospects greatly depend on which university a person attends.

South Korean students wait for the start of the College Scholastic Ability Test at a high school in Seoul on Thursday. About 510,000 high school seniors and graduates across the country are expected to take the annual highly competitive university entrance exam. (Chung Sung-Jun/The Associated Press)

Students were required to have their temperatures taken before entering classrooms, and those with fevers were sent to separate testing areas. The Education Ministry said that 68 infected students and 105 others in self-quarantine took the hours-long test in isolation.

In the Americas, the U.S. government will pay drugmaker Pfizer $5.29 billion US for 10 million courses of its potential COVID-19 treatment if regulators approve it. Pfizer asked U.S. regulators on Tuesday to authorize the experimental pill, which has been shown to significantly cut the rate of hospitalizations and deaths among people with coronavirus infections.

The pharmaceutical giant reported earlier this month that its pill cut hospitalizations and deaths by 89 per cent among high-risk adults who had early symptoms of COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is already reviewing a competing pill from Merck and will hold a public meeting on it later this month.

In Africa, Nigeria's economy grew just over four per cent in the third quarter, the statistics office said, lifted by higher oil prices, as the country targets mass vaccination from this month.

-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:30 p.m. ET.

With files from Reuters and CBC News

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