BERLIN, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- Germany counted 962 deaths related to COVID-19 within one day, setting a new record and bringing the official death toll to 27,968, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Wednesday.
COVID-19 infections in the country increased by 24,740 on Wednesday, pushing the total to 1.55 million cases, according to the federal government agency for disease control and prevention.
Minister of Health Jens Spahn warned that high death figures already led to a "high load" in German hospitals. "We are now deciding over Christmas how the situation will continue in the intensive care units afterward," Spahn told the German broadcaster ARD on Wednesday.
RKI President Lothar Wieler stressed that the COVID-19 situation in Germany could worsen over the Christmas holiday season and appealed to German citizens to reduce contacts to an absolute minimum. "I urge you to spend the days between Christmas and New Year in peace and quiet and in the smallest family circle."
Germany is planning to start COVID-19 vaccination on Sunday, with residents of nursing homes first in the queue, according to the German government.
The European Medicines Agency and the European Commission on Monday approved the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine. According to Spahn, 1.3 million doses of the vaccine would be delivered to Germany's federal states by the end of the year.
"These doses will already be able to make a big difference for many care facilities," said Spahn.