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UPDATE 1-German COVID-19 cases jump by most since early Jan

·2 min read

(Adds comments from Social Democrats)

BERLIN, March 25 (Reuters) - The number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany jumped on Thursday by 22,657 to 2.713 million, the biggest increase since Jan. 9 as Chancellor Angela Merkel's government struggles to agree measures to contain the third wave of the pandemic.

The reported death toll rose by 228 to 75,440, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The number of cases per 100,000 in the last seven days, which the German government has used as a key metric to decide on lockdown steps, rose to 113 from 108 on Wednesday.

A contrite Merkel rejected on Wednesday demands for a vote of confidence in her government over a U-turn on a circuit-breaker lockdown over Easter that compounded discontent with her handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Social Democrats (SPD), the junior coalition partners in Merkel's conservative-led government, pledged their support for the chancellor on Wednesday.

"The last thing we need now would be a government crisis," Carsten Schneider, a leading SPD parliamentarian told German television. "We want the government to do its job properly. She also has the support in parliament for that."

Schneider said the SPD wants the government to introduce mandatory COVID-19 testing by companies of their employees, which Merkel's conservatives have resisted so far.

Germany's struggle to contain a second wave of the coronavirus that has now morphed into a third lies in stark contrast to its successful containment of the first outbreak early last year.

Germans have been largely supportive of lockdowns but a sluggish vaccination campaign, a face mask corruption scandal involving two conservative lawmakers and delays in test kit deliveries have tested their patience. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Caroline Copley.)