With fourth wave raging, Germany agrees booster shots for all

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination rollout in Saxony
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's COVID-19 situation is entering a very difficult period with rising numbers of intensive care patients, health minister Jens Spahn said, as German state leaders warned the country may need a new lockdown unless it takes urgent action.

Spahn said he had agreed with regional health ministers that in future everyone should be offered a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine six months after receiving their previous injection.

"This should become the norm, not the exception," Spahn said at a news conference on Friday.

The country has already had to relocate some patients from regions with overburdened hospitals, Spahn added, urging German citizens to get vaccinated and observe social distancing measures.

"Anyone who thinks they are young and invulnerable should talk to intensive care staff," he said.

Earlier on Friday, two German state leaders said a new lockdown might be needed unless the country takes immediate action to reverse a surge in cases.

"If we take too much time now, it will end in a lockdown like last year," the leader of the eastern state of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, told Deutschlandfunk radio.

The premier of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow, said it was a matter of days until the coronavirus situation would mean that there were not enough intensive care beds at hospitals.

As of Thursday, there were 2,503 free beds in German intensive care units, down from around 3,100 at the start of October, according to data from the DIVI association for intensive and emergency medicine.

Germany reported 37,120 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the second day in a row that it marked the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic last year.

(Reporting by Miranda Murray, Thomas Escritt and Zuzanna Szymanska; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Maria Sheahan)

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