COVID-19: Germany infection rate rises as lockdown eases

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Berlin: Coronavirus infections are rising in Germany, official data shows, just days after the country eased its lockdown restrictions.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the reproduction rate – the estimated number of people a confirmed patient infects – is now above 1, the BBC reported on Sunday.

This means the number of infections is now rising in the country.

The report came as thousands of Germans gathered on Saturday calling for a total end to the lockdown.

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a broad relaxation of national restrictions on Wednesday after talks with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states.

All shops are allowed to reopen, pupils will gradually return to class and the Bundesliga – Germany’s top football league – will restart as soon as next weekend.

But there were protests across the country on Saturday, as some called for measures to be lifted even faster.

Germany has the seventh-highest number of confirmed cases in the world, with latest RKI data on Sunday showing the reported infected tally at 169,218 and a reported death toll of 7,395.

The reproduction number is a way of rating a disease’s ability to spread. It is not a fixed number because it changes as our behaviour changes or as immunity develops.

It is one of three important measurements for monitoring the outbreak, the others being the severity of symptoms and the number of cases.

The report from the public health agency released on Saturday said the reproduction rate was estimated at 1.1, while Sunday’s update put it at 1.13. The number has been below 1 for most of the last three weeks.

The agency said this estimate involved “a degree of uncertainty”, and the rate would have to be observed closely over the coming days.

It was not yet possible to assess “whether the decreasing trend in the number of incident cases observed over the past few weeks will continue or whether case numbers will again increase”, it added.

Germany has won praise for its response to the outbreak. Mass testing and effective lockdown restrictions have helped keep the death toll far lower than in other European countries.

But some have criticised Merkel’s decision to relax those measures after speaking with the heads of the 16 states on Wednesday.

The chancellor imposed an “emergency brake”, requiring local authorities to reimpose restrictions if cases rise above a threshold of 50 per 100,000 people.

Outbreaks at meat processing plants in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein have already reportedly breached that line, and forced district officials to act.

And one district in the state of Thuringia reportedly recorded more than 80 infections per 100,000 people, thought to be due to outbreaks at care facilities.