The death toll from the coronavirus in Germany has passed 50,000, a number that has risen swiftly over recent weeks even as infection figures are finally declining.
The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that another 859 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, taking the total so far to 50,642.
Germany had a comparatively small number of deaths in the pandemic’s first phase and was able to lift many restrictions quickly.
But it has seen much higher levels of infections in the fall and winter. Hundreds of deaths, sometimes more than 1,000, have been reported daily in the country of 83 million people over recent weeks. Germany hit the 40,000 mark on Jan. 10.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will leave a light shining in a window at his Bellevue palace in Berlin every evening starting Friday in memory of the dead and those fighting for their lives, his office said. He encouraged other Germans to do the same.
Steinmeier plans to lead a central memorial event for the dead after Easter.
The lights are meant as a sign that “the dead in the corona pandemic are not just statistics for us,” Steinmeier said, the Associated Press reported.
“Even if we don't know their names and families, we know that every figure stands for a loved one whom we miss infinitely.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed those comments this week, describing the recent death figures as “terrible.”
Still, she said that daily infections are dropping and somewhat fewer people are receiving intensive care than over Christmas.
In Europe, the UK, Italy, France and Spain, all of which have smaller populations, still have higher death tolls.