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UPDATE 2-German minister warns of 20,000 new daily virus cases within days

27 Oct 2020 / 19:26 H.

    (Adds finance minister comments, additional data)

    BERLIN, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The number of new coronavirus infections in Germany is likely to reach 20,000 a day by the end of the week, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Tuesday as authorities readied new curbs to break the second wave of the pandemic.

    "We are dealing with exponential growth," Altmaier told a virtual German-French economic conference in Berlin. "In Germany the number of new infections is rising by 70-75% compared to the week before."

    Altmaier's forecast shows that Germany is contending with a faster upswing in coronavirus cases than previously expected. At the end of September, Chancellor Angela Merkel said there could be 19,200 cases per day by Christmas.

    On Tuesday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 11,409. That compares with 6,868 cases last Tuesday and with the record 14,714 reported on Saturday.

    Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the increase in new infections was "very worrying," and authorities had to quickly implement decisive steps to halt the second wave.

    "The additional measures should be targeted, temporary and focussed. And they should be taken as uniformly as possible across Germany and be generally understandable," Scholz said.

    "So far, our country has fared quite well during the coronavirus pandemic and it will be decided in the coming weeks whether it will stay that way. It's in our hands," he added.

    Merkel and leaders of Germany's 16 states will hold talks on Wednesday to decide on additional measures. Scholz and Altmaier will also take part in the discussions.

    Bild newspaper reported Merkel is planning a "lockdown light" which would mainly focus on the closure of bars and restaurants as well as restrictions on public events.

    Altmaier said rising infections across Europe and corresponding curbs on daily life would make it harder for economic growth to rebound as quickly as previously hoped.

    But he did not expect supply chains to be disrupted like they were during the first wave of the virus in spring.

    The German government expects Europe's largest economy to shrink by 5.5% this year, a source told Reuters on Monday, a slightly more optimistic forecast than its previous guidance for a 5.8% decline in gross domestic product. (Reporting by Caroline Copley, Michael Nienaber and Thomas Seythal; Editing by Catherine Evans and Mike Harrison)

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