Relaxing coronavirus measures in Germany had ‘consequences’, says top health institute

Relaxing coronavirus measures in Germany had 'consequences', says top health institute
Wieler speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo: DPA
Loosening measures to stem the spread of coronavirus has not been “without consequences,” said Robert Koch Institute (RKI) head Lothar Wieler at a press conference on Tuesday.

Wieler referred to the 'Lockerungen' – or loosening of measures which Germany had put in place, such as ordering many non-essential businesses to temporarily close, and sealing off state and national borders.

Since the end of April, the country and its 16 states have been progressively repealing these measures.

But now, following two major coronavirus outbreaks in the past weeks, the reproduction rate in Germany is growing, and now stands at 2.76. Virologists hammer the importance of keeping it below 1. 

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases has grown by 503 in the last 24 hours, according to the RKI, bringing the total number to 190,862 as of Tuesday. 

In the last 24 hours, a further 10 people have died from the disease, out of a total of 8,895 deaths from the virus.

Still “no new cases were registered in 137 districts in the last few days,” said Wieler. 

“There is no reason to treat the severity of the disease differently than at the beginning,” he said, pointing out that there are many older people in Germany who remain at risk. 

“The pandemic is not over”

On Tuesday authorities ordered a local lockdown for the entire district of Gütersloh, in North-Rhine-Westphalia, after a coronavirus outbreak at a meat processing plant led to over 1,500 of the 7,000 workers to be infected.

READ ALSO: Germany orders first local lockdown after coronavirus outbreak

Wieler suspects a combination of different causes for the outbreak at this slaughterhouse and others. On the one hand, he said, cramped housing conditions for the workers played a big role.

But also the low temperatures as well as the easier formation of aerosols can cause the virus to spread rapidly.

“We must remain vigilant to prevent further outbreaks,” Wieler warned, pointing out that the virus would take every opportunity to spread further. “The pandemic is not over.”

Still, Wieler said that he was “very optimistic” that a second wave of corona infections in Germany could be avoided. 

German residents are now very familiar with hygiene and social distancing measures, he said, and are more likely to take the necessary precautions this time around.

“This lies in our hand, in our responsibility,” he said.

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