Germans have been urged not to “gamble away” their success in controlling the coronavirus by failing to stick to prevention guidelines.
It comes as Germany saw its highest daily rise in infections since April, with confirmed cases rising by almost a third to more than 4,000.
Health Minister Jens Spahn called the rise worrying. New restrictions are coming into force.
Germany has been seen as a success story in containing Covid-19.
It has recorded a total of 310,144 cases with a death toll of 9,578, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The UK in contrast has registered 544, 275 cases and 42,515 deaths. On Thursday 17,540 new cases were recorded in the UK.
But at a news conference with Mr Spahn, RKI President Lothar Wieler said Germans must be wary of what he called the “prevention paradox” – the feeling that measures were no longer needed because case numbers were relatively low.
“The current situation worries me a lot. We don’t know how the situation in Germany will develop in the coming weeks. It’s possible we’ll see more than 10,000 new cases a day, it’s possible the virus will spread out of control” he said.
Mr Spahn praised the German people for their “prudent actions” in integrating the rules into their day-to-day lives, which he said had brought the country “through this crisis so far”, but he added: “We must not gamble away this achievement.”
He pointed the finger at large groups of socialising young people, who “think they are invincible”, for failing to follow the rules on social distancing and hygiene and welcomed the curfews on evening entertainment introduced by Berlin and Frankfurt.
As the autumn school holidays get under way in Germany, rules for domestic travel have also been tightened and include a ban on overnight stays in hotels or holiday apartments for anyone coming from “risk zones” where infection rates top 50 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Germans have also been urged to avoid travelling abroad during the holiday period.
There are already bans on large gatherings in areas with high infection rates, testing at airports for people arriving from high-risk countries and fines for anyone failing to wear face coverings in shops or on public transport.
Elsewhere in Europe:
- Russians are being urged to stay at home this weekend to help contain the spread of the virus, as 11,493 new cases take the total number to 1,260,112
- Four more French cities may join Paris and Marseille on maximum alert, paving the way for new restrictions to be brought in. Covid-19 patients now make up half of all patients in Paris’s intensive care units
- The Belgian capital Brussels has closed all bars, cafes, tea rooms for a month
- Italians are now required to masks any time they go outdoors
- Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia have all reported record daily rises in the virus
- Europe has now recorded six million Covid-19 cases, according to a tally by AFP news agency