Angela Merkel has called on unvaccinated Germans to get their shots as quickly as possible as the country’s coronavirus infection rate hit the latest in a string of new highs.Germany’s disease control centre said the country’s infection rate had climbed to 277.4 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days, up from 263.7 the previous day.The Robert Koch Institute reported 45,081 new infections, two days after the daily total topped 50,000 for the first time.Another 228 Covid-19 deaths brought Germany’s total in the pandemic so far to 97,617.Speaking in her weekly podcast, the outgoing German chancellor said: “If we stand together, if we think about protecting ourselves and caring for others, we can save our country a lot this winter.” She warned that that there were “very difficult weeks ahead of us”.While the infection rate is not yet as high as in some other European countries, its relentless rise in Germany has set off alarm bells.Merkel plans to meet the country’s 16 state governors to coordinate nationwide measures next week, and parliament is mulling legislation that would provide a new legal framework for restrictions over the winter.Merkel expressed her concern about the high number of intensive care patients and rising death numbers – especially in regions with low vaccination rates.“Think about it again,” Merkel said to those who still had not got the jab. “We just need to grab it, grab it fast.“I am asking you: join us, and try to convince relatives and friends as well,” she added.The chancellor also called on those who are vaccinated already to get a booster shot against Covid. The booster vaccinations are “a real chance to break the severe fall and winter wave of the pandemic,” Merkel said.Germany has struggled to bring new momentum to its vaccination campaign lately, with a bit over two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated. Children under the age of 12, who cannot yet get vaccinated in Germany, are among the worst hit group.The head of the German Teachers’ Association warned on Saturday that local health offices were struggling to keep control amid the many outbreaks in schools across the country.“The reality is that we are already on the verge of losing control in some hotspot areas,” Heinz-Peter Meidinger told weekly paper Welt am Sonntag. “We no longer know how to contain infection outbreaks in schools.”Also on Saturday, the government started offering free rapid Covid tests again. They were scrapped a month ago in an effort to persuade more people to get vaccinated.