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Germany is caught in a third wave of the pandemic, which has increased the number of infections of the contagious British variant and made many younger patients sick. “The third wave is clearly just around the corner,” said 42-year-old Thomas Marx, medical director of a hospital in Freising, Bavaria, to AFP.

Of the clinic’s 14 intensive care beds, five are occupied by Covid 19 patients. The patients are also younger now, most of them “between 40 and 60” according to Marx. “They often have to be intubated and then have to face a long battle with the virus,” sighed the doctor, adding that one in four does not survive their fight against Covid-19.

In an ICU bed, a man about 40 looked exhausted as he tried to breathe through an oxygen tube. “We were ready to intubate him a few days ago, but we managed to avoid it,” said Marx. Nonetheless, his recovery will take a long time, said the doctor on the man’s bedside.

Senior physician Thomas Marx puts on his personal protective equipment before entering the room of a patient infected with Covid-19 in an intensive care unit in the hospital in Freising, southern Germany. Photo: Lennart Preiss / AFP / Getty Images

After Germany survived the first wave of the pandemic relatively unscathed, it was rocked by a rough third wave. Lothar Wieler, head of the RKI Agency for Infectious Disease Control, said the number of hospital patients between the ages of 35 and 49 has “increased sharply” recently.

Despite repeated warnings from health workers of the urgency of the situation, German authorities remain embroiled in a heated political debate over restrictions to combat the pandemic.

While Chancellor Angela Merkel urged stricter measures to keep the population at home and avoid contagion, some of the country’s powerful regional leaders are refusing to sign up.

Fed up with the wavering states, Merkel’s government agreed to a law change that would make Berlin more central to impose tougher measures like night curfews in badly affected areas.

Senior physician Thomas Marx (L) speaks in an intensive care unit in the hospital in Freising with a patient infected with the novel coronavirus Covid-19.

Senior physician Thomas Marx (L) speaks in an intensive care unit in the hospital in Freising with a patient infected with the novel coronavirus Covid-19. Photo: Lennart Preiss / AFP / Getty Images

“When I look at the news and see that the measures are not enough, it is difficult to take them,” admitted Marx.

Marx expressed fears about the coming days. “It’s not just about treating those with Covid-19, it’s about dealing with all other patients and making sure we don’t compromise the quality of their care,” he said.

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Robert Dunfee