“The current figures make us feel confident,” said Spahn at a press conference in Berlin on Friday, adding that Germany has the chance of a good summer ahead.
“We are on the right track and I think we can see it that way,” said Spahn, adding that the third wave is broken.
According to Spahn, 10.9 million Germans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and 32.6 million people have received a first dose.
On Thursday alone more than one percent of people in Germany (910,474) received a jab. More than 70 percent of the over 60s have received at least one shot, he said.
Spahn predicts that by July, more than 50 percent of the population will have received at least one jab. Before the end of the summer on September 21st, everyone in Germany will have been offered a vaccination.
“It is now a matter of weeks, not months,” said the Health Minister who received the AstraZeneca vaccine recently from his GP.
At the same time, however, it is important to remain “realistic”. “We cannot expect miracles,” he urged. Not everyone who wants to be vaccinated can get it immediately, he added.
In this context, Spahn appealed to everyone not to put pressure on staff in doctors’ surgeries and vaccination centres. They are doing their best, he said. Reports have emerged recently of people skipping queues and being aggressive towards medical staff.
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What are the numbers like?
On Friday the Robert Koch Institute disease control agency reported 8,769 infections and 226 deaths within 24 hours in Germany.
The nationwide 7-day incidence stood at 67.3 Covid cases per 100,000 people (previous day: 68.0; previous week: 96.5).
However, there are large differences across the country. The best performing states are Schleswig-Holstein (with an incidence of 30.3) and Hamburg (35.3) in the north.
Thuringia, with 106.4 Covid cases per 100,000 people, has the highest rate among the 16 states.
Coronavirus measures have been lifted in many cities and districts across Germany because of lower 7-day incidences. In Berlin, for example, terraces and beer gardens are allowed to receive guests again for the first time since November 2020.
Contact restrictions are also more relaxed in many places than they have been recently. In general, two families with up to five people can meet now. However, fully vaccinated people do not have to adhere to contact rules.
Meanwhile, people are considering holidays as tourism spots open up across the country. However, authorities are coming down tough to prevent outbreaks.
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Spahn appealed to people to remain alert. “The pandemic is not over yet. Let’s remain cautious,” he said.
The head of the RKI, Lothar Wieler, said he was also pleased with the development. Infections are currently falling in all age groups, he said.
The decline in the number of cases is “finally noticeable in the clinics,” he said, however, the number of deaths, around 1,300 per week, is still too high. He hopes the number will fall in the coming days.
In order for vaccinations to provide full protection, 80 percent of the population would have to be inoculated, said Wieler. He urged people to continue following contact rules.
Wieler spoke out against excessive easing of restrictions. The RKI boss compared the possible scenario of significantly increasing case numbers with a balloon that is pushed under water and then quickly comes to the surface again.
Could a fourth wave be looming?
“The lesson of last summer and autumn is to stay alert,” said Hajo Zeeb of the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology when asked by DPA.
Zeeb said the variant that originated in India, which is thought to be more infectious, “has the potential to trigger a new wave because currently the vaccination programme is not advanced enough”.
He said it was good that measures were only gradually being relaxed – and doesn’t expect “a big wave”.
As The Local has reported, the variant discovered in India (B.1.617) has a share of two percent of the samples examined in Germany, according to the latest RKI data, which refers to the situation about a fortnight ago.
Overall, however, Germany has seen a major decrease in Covid-19 cases since April.
Physicist Viola Priesemann recently told Der Spiegel: “We have to be careful not to loosen away the immunity gain.”
Although Priesemann expects a good summer, there remains some risk from a scientific point of view, she said.
There are also concerns that the weather could play a role. According to the German Weather Service, there is no stable high-pressure area in sight that would bring summer-like weather – in fact there could be some storms over the weekend.
Those planning lower-risk outdoor gatherings could switch to enclosed spaces. Experts say they should bear in mind that the danger of infectious aerosols has not yet been banished.