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BERLIN (Reuters) - The number of new COVID-19 infections in Germany exceeded 200,000 in a day for the first time on Thursday, hitting staffing at companies including Lufthansa Cargo.
The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported 203,136 positive tests in the last 24 hours, 69,600 cases more than the same day a week ago.
The seven-day incidence per 100,000 people rose to 1,017 from 941 the previous day, while another 188 people died, bringing the death toll since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 to 117,314.
(Graphic: Germany COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalisations https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/xmpjojgmzvr/Pasted%20image%201643266445177.png)
Uwe Janssens, a board member of the DIVI association of emergency and intensive care doctors, told Reuters that hospitals were not currently overloaded, but that could change in coming weeks.
He warned that if the number of daily infections rises above 300,000 then there could be problems for Germany's critical infrastructure. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has predicted daily cases could exceed 400,000 by mid-February.
Airline group Lufthansa's cargo arm said a staffing crunch at its hub in Frankfurt meant it was currently unable to handle sorting of loose freight from the United States, Canada and Europe.
"Despite comprehensive preventative measures, we are now clearly feeling the rising infection numbers," Lufthansa Cargo told Reuters on Thursday, adding that up to 15% of cargo at Frankfurt was affected by delays.
It said its flight schedule was unaffected, as was transportation of time-sensitive goods such as organs for transplants or temperature-controlled cargo.
Rival DHL said its operations in Frankfurt and Leipzig were still running smoothly.
The German Hospitals Federation had warned earlier this week that three-quarters of hospitals were reporting higher than usual numbers of staff out on sick leave.
German lawmakers debated on Wednesday whether to impose compulsory COVID-19 shots, while protesters gathered outside the parliament building.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz backs compulsory vaccines for over-18s but his coalition government is divided on the issue and he has told lawmakers to vote according to their conscience.
Many lawmakers, including some from the coalition's junior partner, the liberal Free Democrats, oppose mandatory vaccines, arguing this violates the second article of Germany's constitution that guarantees citizens control over their own bodies.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, Andreas Rinke and Ilona Wissenbach; Writing by Emma Thomasson and Maria Sheahan; Editing by Miranda Murray and Mark Heinrich)