Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, said regular medical care cannot be guaranteed anymore in some parts of the country because hospitals and intensive care wards are overstretched.
He called for urgent additional measures to tackle the rise in COVID-19 cases, which topped 50,000 for the third day running.
“All of Germany is one big outbreak,” Wieler told reporters in Berlin. “This is a nationwide state of emergency. We need to pull the emergency brake.” His comments came as the upper house of parliament on Friday approved new measures to control the outbreak proposed by the center-left alliance that emerged after the Sept. 26 national election. The measures include requirements for people to prove they are vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces or public transport.
Separately, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with the governors of Germany's 16 states to introduce a new threshold linked to the number of hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. Some states are also considering mandatory vaccinations for some professional groups such as medical staff and nursing home employees.
Neighbouring Austria, which has also been hit by a surge in new cases, announced it would extend a nationwide lockdown to vaccinated people from Monday, and introduce compulsory vaccinations from February.