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 centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said on Friday that another 859 deaths were recorded 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 infection in autumn and winter. Hundreds of deaths, sometimes more than 1000, have been reported daily in the country of 83 million people over recent weeks. Germany hit the 40,000 mark on January 10.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday the recent death figures were "terrible".
"These aren't just figures - these are people who died alone . there are families mourning them," she said. 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.
The head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, said this week the explanation for the high death figures is "relatively simple but relatively depressing".
"The increase is simply linked to the fact that the case numbers went up so much," he said.
New infections peaked in December. On Friday, the Robert Koch Institute reported 17,862 new cases, down from 22,368 a week ago. Germany's total so far is a bit over 2.1 million.
The number of new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days stood at 115.3, after reaching nearly 200 a month ago. It's still well above the government's target of a maximum 50.
Germany's current lockdown was extended this week until February 14 amid concern about the possible impact of virus mutations such as the one first detected in England.
Authorities are trying to encourage more people to work from home, thus reducing the numbers who use public transport.
Merkel says everyone in Germany will be offered a vaccination by the end of the summer. There has been frustration with the slow start to vaccinations - by Wednesday, 1.32 million people had received a first dose.
Australian Associated Press